The unfortunate piece of meat in this instance is Lara Bingle and this particular feeding frenzy is the sordid tale of AFL footballer Brendan Fevola's shower shot of the naked Lara that has been given a ridiculous, but predictable, amount of coverage in the tabloids this week. According to Bingle's management, she is planning to take action against the Brisbane Lions star recruit for breach of privacy, defamation and misuse of her image – which could prove to be a tough ask if she can't prove Fevola handed over the photos to Woman's Day.
It would be an over-simplification to suggest the only species of shark we are dealing with is the tabloidus pressus sharkus. There are plenty of people willing and able to take a feed off Bingle – all manner of advisors and ‘friends’ are always close at hand. And, yes, the shark-pool analogy is a tired clich when it comes to the media. But like all clichs, it is proven true over and over again.
Bingle’s gruelling week is merely a timely illustration of the game played out on a daily basis between the media, its audience and their shared prey. And while it might seem that I am having a shot at the media – I am not. As long as we all keep devouring the stories and driving audience numbers, the media will keep feeding the demand. And no one should think this is personal at the end of the day. Media is a business after all. It's about flogging papers and ratings. Bingle et al are just the product on the shelves that sell well.
Let's drag poor Ms Bingle back into the debate again. There are various theories about the drivers and motivation in the timing and nature of this week’s 'bingle'. Given the offending image has been around the traps for months, anyone at any time could have run with it. One school of thought is that Woman’s Day, running it the way they did, had more to do with the ensuing a tabloid firestorm than any interest in the story itself. And if that is true – it worked a treat – talk about the free publicity for the magazine. Woman’s Day, owned by Australian Consolidated Press, has flown off the shelves this week and circulation must now be sky-high.
The Woman’s Day story gave permission to all the other media to join the fray. An unleashed News Limited and others who had been holding back now had a chance to run it every day – and of course they seized that opportunity.
Columnist to the tabloids, Andrew Bolt was able to be comfortably outraged that Woman’s Day editor Fiona Connolly would dump on her own gender and there have been the endless segments on morning TV and talkback radio. The sharks have had their fill. Thank you very much Lara – you have delivered again.
While we can be outraged and rage about the intrusion of the paparazzi and the journos and the buyers of their wares, the fact is a market only exists because there is money in it. Everyone who reads the stories – even waiting in a queue at the supermarket – guarantees it will continue on in perpetuity.
Given the Bingle story is pretty tired now and we are heading into the weekend, the only question is who will be the next fresh piece of meat? It wouldn’t have mattered if this past week’s piece of meat was Bingle or Jennifer Hawkins or Megan Gale or Miranda Kerr or anyone else – male or female - in the ground-hog day ensemble. Any piece of meat is fine so long as it plays its role, bleeds profusely and provides salacious copy.
As for Lara – she may one day choose to hang up the Manolo Blahniks and get off the celebrity merry-go-round. The Sydney Morning Herald may decide the back page of its Saturday blockbuster edition is better spent on matters more thoughtful. Today Tonight might cease being an entertainment program and switch to news. Hell, who knows we as a society might lose out taste for this stuff…I suspect the Manolos will be the first out of the game. Retired hurt.
Madam, sir, would you like that steak medium or rare?