The Politics    Wednesday, April 29, 2015


By Sean Kelly

The deaths of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran dominate headlines right now. At some point we will move on.

One of the difficult roles the media plays in significant news stories is deciding when it is time to move on.

It’s a complex decision driven by many factors: when new things stop happening; whether anything can be gained by continued reporting; a respectful decision that individuals involved in a story have been pushed far enough; whether other important events demand attention; whether public interest is beginning to fall away.

Put like that, it sounds cynical and hard-bitten. Perhaps it is, but it is also a task we rely on the media to carry out. It is a job that newspaper editors, broadcast producers, and journalists perform on behalf of the rest of us.

It is a little like grief: at some point, inevitably, it will come time to return our focus to the other matters of daily life.

That parallel is more striking when the news story in question involves public death, as the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran does.

The ambulances carrying the caskets of the two Australians will by now have set off for Jakarta. The families of the two men will have left Cilacap also, following the ambulances along the ten-hour road journey to the capital.

Several things will happen in the coming days. There will be further discussion about the role of the Australian Federal Police in the arrest of the men. There will be continued focus on the families. There will be debate on the merits of boycotts. Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia will be recalled from Jakarta by the prime minister in a show of protest, adding to the prime minister’s decision to suspend ministerial contact between the countries. There will be consideration of further action by Australia.

And at some point new things will stop happening. It will become clear that little can be gained by continued reporting. A respectful decision will be taken to leave the families in peace. Other important events will demand our attention. Public interest will begin to fall away. The media will move on, and so will we.

Labor MP Tim Watts reminded me of this snippet from George Orwell on capital punishment.

A woman has died as a result of domestic violence. That brings the total number of women killed by violence this year to 34, according to Counting Dead Women Australia. That is two women killed by violence in Australia every week.

Tony Abbott’s sister has urged the Liberal Party to consider a conscience vote on gay marriage.

And the US Supreme Court is hearing arguments on gay marriage.

Tony Burke and Bill Shorten appear to have reached an agreement on shifting Labor’s position on the recognition of Palestine.

Comedian Russell Brand has interviewed UK’s would-be prime minister, Ed Miliband.

The UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous people has said Tony Abbott’s “lifestyle choices” comment “smacks of racism”.

There are riots in Baltimore. The creator of The Wire, David Simon, on what’s wrong with them.

Australia’s richest suburb has an average income of $177,514 and is in harbourside Sydney. Australia’s poorest suburb has an average income of $21,691 and is in rural NSW.

Controversy over a UK ad campaign asking “Are you beach body ready?”

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.


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