Let them sell their story

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This weekend, both the Seven and Nine networks will air interviews with survivors of the siege that took place in Sydney’s Martin Place last December.

The tragedy saw two innocent people lose their lives at the hands of a madman and captivated the entire country.

Understandably, opinions are split on whether or not the networks should be airing these interviews, and more specifically, whether the survivors should be getting paid to tell their story.

Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett made headlines earlier this year when he said it wasn’t “morally right” that the media pay for the story, or that the survivors profit from the tragedy.

Even in my own household, there’s been a debate about this topic.

My view? I’ve got no problem with the media paying for the story, nor have I got a problem with the survivors receiving money to tell it.

Let’s deal with the media first.

Every day, the media is bashed from pillar to post about everything from story choices to the quality of journalism to the very nature of the job they’re doing.

I myself have been known to be critical of some organisations, including The Daily Telegraph, for the D-Grade stories that often pop up on their website.

Others, too, have become lazy and more interested in click-baiting than actual journalism. Last week The Daily Mail’s lead story was, I kid you not, a piece on Karl Stefanovic mowing his lawn.

The common comment from those who wage war on some of the bigger media outlets is “please cover some real news”.

On Sunday night, Seven and Nine will air interviews stemming from one of the biggest stories Australia has seen in the last decade.

It doesn’t get much more real than that.

Yes, Seven and Nine have paid big bucks to make it happen and yes, both are commercial organisations. From a purely business point of view, they know that any money spent will be returned to them by way of advertising revenue.

But from a raw journalism point of view, it answers the call of those who are critical of today’s media for their lack of serious and in depth news coverage.

Not surprisingly, however, the keyboard warriors are never happy.

The same people who complain about a story such as Karl Stefanovic mowing his lawn will also complain about real journalism such as the interviews with the siege victims.

Sometimes, and certainly not all the time, media organisations need to pay for stories to deliver the journalism that the public should and does demand.

As for the survivors, not for one minute can I imagine what it was like to sit in that cafe for hours on end, not knowing if their lives would end on that day.

In life, we all have a story to tell.

For some, that story is more extraordinary than others, and at this point in time, the story the survivors have to tell is one that the nation wants to hear. Should they wish to sell that story, I haven’t got a problem with it.

After all, unless they went to the ABC or held a media-wide press conference, somebody else will profit from their story anyway.

What happened inside that cafe is their story. It happened to them, not Jeff Kennett, not us.

They therefore have the right to do whatever they feel comfortable with in relation to that story.

It is exceptionally sad that two people lost their lives in the Sydney Siege.

For those who survived, the experience they went through will have changed them forever. Let’s not begrudge their right to get something back out of that tragedy.

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