Media Language – Drowning in your own words

By Doug Weller

Media players, listen up. You can learn a lot about media language from the Eddie McGuire/Caroline Wilson ‘drowning’ saga.

Eddie McGuire is a media guru. A high profile Australian TV presenter, radio commentator, Collingwood Football Club President and former TV network CEO.

With that much media experience, Eddie should understand the influence and effect of his media words and know what is clearly inappropriate.

But Eddie McGuire has a history of media gaffes.

Yet again he has made media headlines, this time for his ill-considered comments about drowning female journalist, Caroline Wilson.

So what can we all learn from this episode?

For many people, the more media experience you have, the more relaxed you become.

When you’re comfortable being surrounded by microphones, you become less aware of them – they become part of the furniture.

There’s a long list of high profile people who’ve been recorded making private, flippant or highly inappropriate comments when they thought their mics were off.

President Obama was recorded during private exchanges with world leaders including Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev  and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy 

Australian Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, was caught joking about climate change with then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott when they failed to notice a boom microphone.

But Eddie McGuire wasn’t unknowingly recorded by a live mic. His blunders resulted from intentional comments during public broadcasts.

McGuire’s inappropriate comments about Caroline Wilson sparked national outrage and the fallout was substantial.

Female journalists were insulted, social media erupted and politicians weighed in.

Journalist and national convenor of Women in the Media, Tracey Spicer, found McGuire’s comments “reprehensible” and called for sanctions and penalties.

Australian Social Services Minister, Christian Porter, said “…it is no longer an excuse to say the language was meant to be flippant because it has an effect.”

McGuire’s comments even rippled out to the federal election campaign trail.

Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, cancelled a scheduled radio interview with McGuire and said “I just wish people would think about what they say before they say it”.

Major Collingwood Football Club Sponsor, Holden, reviewed it’s relationship with the club.

Richmond Football Club boycotted Triple M radio station which aired McGuire’s ill-considered comments about Caroline Wilson.

Eddie McGuire’s handling of the media uproar in the aftermath of his comments was also scrutinised and his initial apologies were deemed insincere.

In a further attempt to redeem himself McGuire made a video apology via the Collingwood Football Club’s website.

It would seem from Eddie’s repeated media gaffes that he doesn’t consider his media messages and their fallout.

Whether you’re a media commentator or a media spokesperson, what you say in the media and the language you use, matters – a lot.

Media commentators have the power to influence public opinion on many issues

Combatting violence against women is an important and high profile media topic. Organisations including the Australian Football League (AFL) are actively raising awareness of that issue.

Eddie McGuire is an AFL club President and the AFL itself supports White Ribbon, Australia’s national campaign to stop men’s violence against women.

McGuire’s inappropriate comments about drowning Caroline Wilson were made during the AFL’s White Ribbon round. His words were completely incompatible with White Ribbon’s message of preventing violence against women.

White ribbon released a statement saying the comments were “examples of language that demean women and reinforce violence-supporting attitudes.”

Female co-host of Channel 9’s AFL Footy Show, Rebbeca Maddern, put it eloquently when she said, “I think in the media, we have to be reminded that we are in a very privileged position. We have a voice. That voice is listened to by many people, and people absorb what we say. And in turn, because of that, we have a power to change the conversation and shape the public perception about certain issues.”

Treat media interactions with respect

If world leaders and media industry veterans can make outrageous media mistakes, so can spokespeople, even if they’re very experienced.

All media interactions should be treated with respect regardless of how casual the media moment.

Making inappropriate comments, or using offensive language in the media can result in extreme personal, professional, financial and reputational damage.

Even worse, your choice of words could harm others.

In the media, no matter who you are, think before you speak!

Information Only

Any information presented on our website is of a general nature only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.


Eddie McGuire’s gaffes file – when the Magpies chief and Channel Nine star’s mouth got him in trouble

Barack Obama microphone gaffe: ‘I’ll have more flexibility after election’

Nicolas Sarkozy complained to Barack Obama of liar Benjamin Netanyahu

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton caught joking about the effect of climate change on Pacific islands

‘These guys live in a bubble’: The AFL’s big blokey problem

Eddie McGuire’s comments ‘incredibly disappointing’, Cabinet ministers say

Eddie McGuire and Caroline Wilson: Bill Shorten snubs McGuire after ice pool remarks

Eddie McGuire: Magpies president to front board meeting as sponsor reviews links with club

Tigers boycott Triple M over Eddie McGuire, Caroline Wilson controversy

Eddie McGuire likely forced to apologise for drowning comments, Caroline Wilson says

McGuire’s Apology

Violence Against Women Is No Laughing Matter

Sam Newman blasts Caroline Wilson over Eddie McGuire ‘joke’ furore

Blog image by Ron Tandberg

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