Real Media Real Change is a collaboration of people from varied professions and backgrounds who share a common interest in how the media impacts the health and wellbeing of our communities.

There is much in our current Media culture and landscape which demonstrates a lack of true care for people — with profit and power setting the agenda. However we do not have to accept an exploitative “race to the bottom” media as ‘just how it is’. It is more than possible to have a ‘Media that Connects’, one that inspires and evolves communication and expression between people and for people. It is equally the media producer and the media consumer that have the power to make this change. — Real Media Real Change Team

Well before the formation of Real Media Real Change, as individuals we were aware that misrepresentation and misinformation in the media were issues that impact us all. In the case of the tabloid print and news media, it was clear that there was a tendency to ‘manufacture conflict’ to produce emotive stories that would increase ratings. This has intensified with the growing pressures on journalists to produce the 24/7 news cycle and with the rise of online media, which has greater accessibility and permanence than traditional print, and yet considerably less regulation and accountability.

So whilst aware of the media landscape and culture of print and online media, it was not until the yet-to-be-formed RMRC team became direct recipients of press abuse and experienced first-hand the effects of journalism which was false, misleading and deceptive – all for the sake of a sensational story – that they felt to address the quality and culture of the media across the board.

Background

In 2012 a number of close friends and colleagues of the RMRC Team, and indeed some of the RMRC team members themselves, became the targets of an orchestrated defamation campaign instigated by a small handful of hate-bloggers. This was ‘run with’ by a few self-interested and unscrupulous members of the Press and an intense period of Press abuse ensued over a 15 month period.

Previous to this, the yet to be formed RMRC team had known each other through their mutual interest in health and well-being, complementary therapies and Esoteric Philosophy. They had met at the courses and workshops of a highly respected and sought after Esoteric healing practitioner and presenter by the name of Serge Benhayon, founder of complementary healing clinic Universal Medicine. While still an unknown on the media stage, Benhayon’s success was known to many in Australia and internationally as reflected by a six month long wait list for his one to one healing sessions and the growing popularity of his public talks and presentations.

Over a period of 48 hours the RMRC team would witness how hate-bloggers would successfully co-opt the media to have highly-charged and defamatory lies about Benhayon and his family (including his young adult children), appear in print from the local paper to the New York Post.

Failing to demonstrate basic fact checking, verification of sources and a balanced approach, it was a clear breach of the journalists code of ethics. Both the journalists and papers received hundreds of complaints which were ignored or given a token response. There was no accountability, or care for people in the process – indeed it became apparent there was very little meaningful recourse available at all. Small retractions were printed and further articles continued to be published worldwide which were based on hearsay and utter falsity, sometimes so absurd as to defy comprehension. This was a clear abuse of the power of the media and the position of responsibility and journalists find themselves in.

Whilst in our personal case we initiated a process to call the corrupt parties to account, it was clear that what we had experienced was a part of a greater systemic problem within the culture of media where ‘care, truth and connection’ is not the leading mandate. – Sarah Davis RMRC

What was witnessed was a kind of ‘casual corruption’ that had become part of standard procedure — where the ‘construction of a story’ trumped any semblance of the truth. The flippant nature of the journalists reporting pointed to the reality that this kind of mistreatment of people had become a normal part of daily operations such to the extent that it was no longer seen as problematic, or as contravening the basics of fair and ethical treatment. For the founding members of RMRC to personally witness this and to feel its effects first-hand was an education in the Media and its workings and would become the catalyst for the formation of Real Media Real Change.

 What was apparent was that if this could happen to people we knew, whose reputations and character we knew to be of unquestionable integrity, then what was happening to people Australia-wide? What was happening world-wide? If this same manufacturing of conflict and sensationalism; if this same abuse of people and manipulation of public opinion had become as deeply entrenched as had been demonstrated in our own dealings with the media, then what we were seeing was a media that was doing unknowable harms to individuals and organisations on a widespread scale. We also realised that to know this and to not act would be a choice to accept corruption as an accepted norm and this was not an option. As ‘blind media consumers’ we are the ‘unconsciously complicit’. But in reality we are not blind, and at times we see far more than we care to admit because while stats suggest around 80% of people don’t trust the media, we still buy the papers and watch Tabloid News. In complacency, corruption finds easy sustenance. And so we wanted to create an organisation that at once called the media to account and called for greater responsibility from the media consumer. 

We realised that it was ‘from the people’ that change would have to come and so when Sarah initially approached me with the idea of forming an advocacy group we could feel the scope of what it could be — a vehicle for change for all people who were being affected by media misrepresentation but equally a point of inspiration for those media and non-media professional alike who know what journalism and media can be when ethics and care form the basis of its foundation. So many journalists join the profession with aspirations to write with truth, integrity and diligence  but often there is a great pressure ‘to get the story out’ that doesn’t allow for this approach to see itself through to the page. RMRC represents a space; a space to make media free from the industry pressures that dictate speed over diligence and emotive content over stories that are truly constructive and valuable in our understandings of ourselves and the world around us. A growing number of journalists, media professionals and academics contribute to the media and events RMRC produce because of the unique space that this platform affords — Rebecca Baldwin, RMRC

A new platform for change

While Sarah Davis and Rebecca Baldwin were discussing creating an advocacy group that would be a platform for people to challenge corruption and misrepresentation in the media generally, Jennene Greenall and Lucy Dahill, both media professionals in their own right, were feeling the call to explore issues of Media accountability in the Australian Media Landscape. Katie Walls and Penny Scheenhouwer, both complementary healing professionals were also looking to explore the impact of the media on public healthOthers equally felt the call and we quickly found ourselves with an 18-person strong team called Real Media Real Change.

With no intention to be ‘armchair critics’, the team equally held an intent to actually generate the quality of Media that we ourselves wanted to consume. And so as active and engaged members in our various professions and in our community, our agenda is two-fold:

- To produce ‘Real Media’ which is about care, connection and truth
- To call for change in the culture of the Media where there is a clear need for accountability and ethical conduct.

We welcome anyone within the community to connect with and contribute to RMRC. Our community-based conferences have and will continue to provide a rich platform for members of the community from all walks and backgrounds to explore collaborative ways forward to truly address issues that affect us all.

‘Real Media’ makes media about people – and together, from this foundation we can bring ‘Real Change’.

See the Real Media Real Change Team Bios