I'll admit that members of the media can have a tough job - especially those in the print media. The purchase of newspaper is declining as more people choose to consume their news online. "Clickbait" headings have driven proud journalists to reduce their offerings to shallow articles designed to create outrage, confirm pre-existing biases or to simply "get clicks".
But when the media prey on young people for the singular purpose of generating an audience for their online articles, one can't help but feel there is a huge contradiction of values that exists amongst editors that tailor the narrative of their medium with the sole objective of pulling readers into their web.
"These are the rantings of a paranoid fool," I can hearing you thinking. Maybe not - let me share a recent experience of mine.
I am currently President of the West Torrens District Cricket Club, one of the oldest and most successful clubs in the SACA Premier Cricket Competition. In February 2019, our 2nd Grade Women were cruising at 4/81 chasing just 84 to win. The unthinkable happened and our girls lost 6/2 to tie the game. Amazing right?
The story went viral within 24 hours with media outlets like news.com.au, Yahoo News, Fox Sports Australia and The Roar publicly shaming our players for their incredible collapse. If these were elite-level cricketers or even adults, the scrutiny on their performance might have been expected if not deserved. But the fact was that:
1. Our 2nd Grade Eagles had an average age of 14 2. We had 2 x 11 year old players in that team 3. This was our 2nd XI vs Glenelg's 1st XI. 4. Many of players are in their 1st or 2nd year of competitive cricket.
Our young players were devastated by being so publicly humiliated; I received calls from parents of these teenagers who didn't want to go to school because all of a sudden their weekend's performance was national news. We had young girls who were just learning the game enduring having their name highlighted and circled in the national media.
The club attempted to provide some context through commenting on various websites without response. A well-known Adelaide-based sports journalist even contacted me to explain that he had pleaded with his employer to remove the article and was promptly dismissed. Eventually I attempted to make a public statement through our Facebook Page and website and while this attracted significant attention, it was not from those who we needed to educate.
To the credit of the Glenelg Cricket Club, they did contact me and express their dismay at the coverage received. While they were deservedly proud of their come-back, they were extremely upset at the negative publicity experienced by our young team, as did Port Adelaide CC who had recently experienced similar public humiliation.
So by now you might be thinking "What is your point. Who cares about 2nd Grade Women's Cricket in Adelaide?"
The problem is the contradictory behaviour of the media when it comes to women's issues. An AFLW player, Tayla Harris, was recently targeted by trolls over a photo published of her in full extension during a kick. Media outlets rightly called out the disgusting behaviour of those who commented in a derogatory way, but why were they acting high and mighty on this issue while ignoring the impact their articles had on a whole team (2 teams if you count Port Adelaide) or underage players?
Where is the leadership in the media that would acknowledge the impact their articles can have on vulnerable young people? Or is it as I suspected all along, that they don't really care about equality for female athletes and really just care about clicks on their websites?