AT THE risk of getting into the ludicrous situation of being a person in the media commenting on a person in the media commenting on the media (yes, you may have to read that twice) Karl Stefanovic's rant about Schapelle Corby is a case of sanctimonious virtue-signalling.
Like Stefanovic, I think the feverish media coverage of Corby's return to Australia is farcical. But there are far better ways to make your point than to condescendingly thrust yourself into the story, accusing your profession of "looking like idiots".
"I realise there's interest but why oh why oh why?" he ranted on Today this morning. "Where Schapelle is, what she looks like … come on. We know. And you know what? It ain't interesting. Move along, please."
As a seasoned reporter and host, Stefanovic has every right to editorialise on the story of the day. That he did so in a scripted piece to camera delivered with such superiority raises several possibilities:
1. He wanted to make himself the story.
2. He's contemptuous of his colleagues, bosses and - more critically - his audience.
3. He is now heartily sick of populist television and is angling for a job at the ABC.
The fact is Stefanovic is paid extremely well by a television network that lives and dies by ratings. He's a talented broadcaster who's garnered a following, a Gold Logie, and a massive profile thanks to tabloid television.
Was the media coverage of Schapelle Corby's homecoming over the top?
This poll ended on 31 December 2017.
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Yesterday his bosses made the decision to go all out to provide viewers with extensive coverage of the Schapelle Corby story. His wasn't the only network to do so - indeed even ABC News Radio was leading with the story this morning.
Channel Nine had special coverage of the Corby story with Georgie Gardner on Saturday night while on Sunday there was further rolling coverage on Today.
At one point it seemed the network had a reporter at every location where Corby may have ever breathed, while a reporter at Brisbane airport was able to confirm that the convicted drug smuggler had eaten a vegan meal on the plane (#breakingnews!).
So, what do you do if you're a TV host, it's your show and you don't want to further hyperventilate over a story that you don't think is worthy of such attention?
Firstly, you respect your viewers because without them you are nothing.
Every media outlet is faced with a chicken and egg conundrum with stories such as Corby's: Do you feed the public what you think they want or do you expect them to simply absorb what they're fed?
Stefanovic's bosses clearly believed their audience wanted extensive coverage of the Corby story.
They know what pushes viewers' buttons and the Corby story is one which consistently rates. Why else did they choose to screen the 2014 telemovie Schapelle following 60 Minutes last night.
Secondly, you use humour and deftness to introduce some critical thought to the coverage of a story.
In the interests of full disclosure I was commentating on the story on Sunrise yesterday where host Andrew O'Keefe was clearly similarly incredulous at the extent of the coverage.
But unlike Stefanovic who chose to grandstand from above, O'Keefe drew viewers alongside him with pithy comments and genuine questions about why we are so fascinated in the Corby tale.
Is it because she's attractive? Is it relatable because Bali is where so many of us holiday? Why have magazines which normally feature celebrities and royals repeatedly put Corby on their cover?
When it seemed nothing was happening and there was little left to say, O'Keefe speculated on whether we might find out if Corby had used a moistened towelette on her flight from Bali. It was funny, artful, clever television where often the most appropriate response is simply to laugh.
Thirdly, and most importantly, you workshop with your bosses. As host, Stefanovic has the right to question how a story is executed. But you do it in the production room or via your earpiece in the commercial breaks and, yes, you may schedule an on air discussion not just about the story but how it is being told.
The media "circus", as Stefanovic referred to it, is not a bunch of performers angling to gain attention for their own highwire antics but hardworking professionals simply doing what they've been asked by their bosses.
Stefanovic knows better than anyone how hard it is to "pad" with commentary when there's nothing to commentate on. He should've raised the issue with his superiors rather than attack his underlings.
Every industry needs to examine its practices and the Corby case raises many questions about journalistic credibility. Doubtless it will be much discussed on the ABC's Media Watch tonight.
But by getting on his public soapbox rather than directly addressing his concerns with those who can affect change, Stefanovic has advanced nothing but himself.
Continue the conversation with Angela Mollard on Twitter @angelamollard
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