I’ve spent the morning watching the rolling coverage of Schapelle Corby’s release from a Bali prison where she has spent just over nine years serving a sentence for importing 4.2 kilograms of cannabis into the country.
A pretty, 26 year-old when she went in, she’s emerging a decade later as, reportedly ,a fragile woman with some serious mental health issues.
Throughout the experience she has always maintained her innocence. There were claims baggage handlers placed the drugs in her boogie board bag, and another school of thought is her father committed the crime and let her take the rap for it.
I have no idea one way or the other on her guilt or innocence.
What struck me this morning was the role of the media in these high-profile stories. The media crush as she was led from the prison to two other locations for final processing was frightening to watch.
Reporters ended up doing crosses about the “chaos” and “scrum” and how terrifying it was, the irony that they were creating the situation seemed lost on them.
You really wouldn’t want to find yourself at the centre of a story of high media interest.
And God forbid you happen to have no media experience, little money, no network of contacts and be without a university degree to fall back on for creating articulate, savvy “grabs” on demand for the cameras.
It appears Channel 7 has won the much coveted rights to the story, with journalist Mike Willesee whisking Corby away from the final processing centre to an undisclosed location. Although they were going to have to somehow lose the motorbike riding camera crews trailing them for it to remain “undisclosed”. Reports have it the Corby’s were asking over $2 million for the first interview.
Now of course the debate is starting over whether Corby should be benefiting from her crime by receiving payment for her story.
Yet looking at the mayhem of the release it was obvious that once the final documents were signed she lost her police transport and escort and would have been left unprotected in the middle of the media frenzy if her family hadn’t done the deal, which looked like it included private security to get her the hell away.
The media is a vital cog in the democratic process of a society. They should be asking questions, investigating situations, digging deep to find out the truth of stories.
Yet I think it is important they consider the role they play in building up stories and, sometimes, crafting rather than reporting the events.
The Schapelle Corby case is a genuine story from many angles.
However, the media presence should recognise its contribution to the story.
By all means report on the story but don’t take a “holier than thou” attitude about what all this attention is doing to Corby, or try to blame the Indonesian media for the large contingent of jostling reporters or the Indonesian authorities for not taking the necessary precautions against the tide of cameras and microphone waving journos.
At the end of the day the media is a powerful force where judicious editing can add sway to any story, you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of it.