WE LOVE A good hoax. When it was revealed that Keith Windschuttle, editor of Quadrant, had accepted a bogus article on genetic engineering, the wide coverage provoked debate about Windschuttle’s criticisms of historians for flawed footnotes. Comparisons to famous hoaxes were made, and Windschuttle’s opponents relished his comeuppance. Earlier this decade, American news icon Dan Rather’s use of hoax evidence regarding George W. Bush’s National Guard record received worldwide coverage and led to the sooner-than-planned end of Rather’s career as CBS’s 60 Minutes anchor. Closer to home – perhaps in one’s car, or through headphones at the gym – smaller hoaxes can sometimes be heard, perpetrated on those whose job is ostensibly to inform others of the events of the day and be a voice for the everyman.
Talkback radio occupies a unique place in Australia’s media landscape. Radio stations are given more time by political leaders during election campaigns than all the other media combined, and radio talkback is the preferred venue for selling policy and managing scandals. Its fans argue that it’s where Joe Public can hold the Prime Minister to account, as well as listen in on an ‘over the backyard fence’ conversation between average Australians. But its critics argue that talkback’s biggest stars are salesmen relying on flimsy research and stories already broken elsewhere.
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