ABC’s Q&A program sparked a fiery debate between senator Jacqui Lambie and Yassmin Abdel-Magied on Sharia law on Monday the 13th of February. Senator Lambie was asked a question regarding immigration and how she reportedly said “Australia should follow Donald Trump’s path”. Ms Abdel-Magied then entered the conversation defending Sharia law, which started the explosive debate.
As Q&A is live, people were tweeting about the altercation between the two women as it was happening. It was a few hours later that the first news specific account tweeted about the debate.
ABC News posted a tweet linking to a video and subsequent article on the debate.
This was the beginning of a barrage of tweets on the subject, with some users agreeing with Ms Abdel-Magied,
and others with Senator Lambie.
It was not long before other news outlets such as The Guardian and The Age also tweeted on the subject, sharing links to their own articles.
Following the tweets from The Guardian and The Age, it spread throughout Twitter, with mostly the public tweeting their own opinions and thoughts on the Q&A debate, with the tweets ranging from the 14th of February up until now.
Social media, such as Twitter, is superior in many ways to the old print style of news sharing. Dunlop (2016) wrote that social media has become the new front page for audiences. Users can now talk to the journalists far easier than they used to be able to, which has turned the public into active participants in the news stories and how they unfold, rather than just passive recipients. This can be seen in how the public participated in sharing this story amongst themselves via Twitter and other social media platforms.
Timeliness of the Story
The publishing speed relative to the speed at which this story was happening varied depending on the media platform. Twitter users were posting tweets on the subject as it was happening, whereas news accounts like ABC News and The Guardian did not tweet or write about it until some time had passed. The interview with Senator Lambie was conducted on the 16th of February, three days after the Q&A episode aired.
Lamble (2013) discussed the use of the “big six” news values when writing or analysing a journalistic story. These are listed in descending order of most to least important:
- Significance (or impact) – Wide ranging stories that have a huge impact on a wide range of people
- Proximity – News that happens close to us, not just geographically, but emotionally and culturally
- Conflict – Covers a wide range of things: war, sporting events, elections, court cases, etc.
- Human interest – Based on emotion
- Novelty – Unusual news stories
- Prominence – Well known people make news simply for being well known
The debate between Ms Abdel-Magied and Senator Lambie fits into several of the “big six” values. Q&A is an Australian show, and the disagreement happened on live television with thousands of Australians watching it unfold. This puts the story under the proximity category. It also fits into the conflict value, as it was an argument about religious and national laws, and how they do or do not fit into Australia. Ms Abdel-Magied is considered a role model for many young girls, and had a personal investment in the debate, which engaged human interest.
Depth of the Information Provided (5W’s, One H)
Each news outlet included the first W, being who. Either Senator Lambie and Ms Abdel-Magied had their names stated in the headline of the article, or it followed in the story. Their names were included in tweets and in the interview with Senator Lambie. The second W, what, was the main point in each of the media sources used. Everything was either about, or segued off, the debate between the two women. The ‘when’ of the debate was included in most of the news articles, stated as being Monday night. A specific date was not given in the articles, besides the publication date of them. All the news media sources listed the ‘where’ as the Q&A. They also all mentioned that the debate started after a question was posed to Senator Lambie regarding Sharia law, which gives the ‘why’. The ‘how’ of the story is mentioned as Senator Lambie and Ms Abdel-Magied having different beliefs and different opinions about Islam and Sharia law, which led to the argument.
Fairness and Balance
After the Q&A episode, several news sites published articles on the debate that occurred. The articles by The Guardian and ABC News were both reporting on what had happened during the Q&A, using quotes that Senator Lambie and Ms Abdel-Magied had said during the episode. Other news sites, such as The Age and The Australian published pieces in favour of either Ms Abdel-Magied, or Senator Lambie.
The Australian published two articles specifically about Ms Abdel-Magied and her stance on Islam’s treatment of women and that she “reached out to the spokesman for anti-gay and anti-women group Hizb ut-Tahrir in the wake of her fight on ABC TV’s program Q&A for advice on how she could have framed her argument better” (Morton, 2017)
The Sydney Morning Herald took a different approach to the story. Instead of writing about the Q&A debate, they wrote about the effect it had later. An alt-right group launched a petition demanding that the ABC fire Ms Abdel-Magied. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote about the petition, and the defences Ms Abdel-Magied had for her religion on the Q&A program.
Despite the amount of coverage this got in online news media and social media, there was surprisingly little coverage in major television news programs. The Morning Show did an interview with Senator Lambie regarding the backlash she received following the Q&A episode. She was questioned about her beliefs on Sharia law, and said “it is a real problem”.
“I’m not an academic, I only know so much about it, but let’s get the discussion out there. I know one thing, I don’t like it, I’m not comfortable with it….”
The main argument Senator Lambie pushed during her interview is that the discussion surrounding Sharia law is now out there, and that people can “talk about the Sharia law that is going on in this country”.
Ms Abdel-Magied was not interviewed following the debate.
Social media is able to discuss and share news as it happens, whereas television and news sites need time to write or record the story. The three platforms use different ways of sharing news, as twitter is limited to 140 character posts, one can only say so much about a subject, so succinctness is necessary. The written and televised news reports answered all the 5 W’s and One H, making them comprehensive articles. The main differences that can be found in how this story presented are in prominence, and timeliness. Through all the differences and similarities, it can be seen that the way news stories present over different platforms differs.
- Dunlop, T. (2016). Why the Future Is Workless(1st ed., p. 71). Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.
- Lamble, S. (2013). News as it happens(1st ed., pp. 45-52). South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.
- Porter, J. (2010). Five Ws and One H: The Secret to Complete News Stories. Journalistics. Retrieved from http://blog.journalistics.com/2010/five-ws-one-h/