Broadly, I’d probably have to agree with matlock by saying that commercial TV (and indeed, most commercial media generally) news/current affairs probably has always had a level of sensationalism. Is sensationalism in the media more prevalent now than ever before? That’s quite debatable.
The general quality of news coverage in Australia? Well…while the ABC and SBS definitely hold a large degree of emphasis on quality journalism (and certainly a higher standard than commercial media), you have to remember this is mainly relevant to national and international news coverage.
As far as local news for different parts of Australia is concerned, well SBS quite simply don’t do local news and while the ABC have a vast local radio network, it’s TV news bulletins are restricted to state coverage and can’t do customised local news coverage for different cities and regions. That’s where the commercial media come in. For better or worse, the continued popularity of commercial news media clearly states that the consumer is still in content that’s relevant to their local area. Indeed, with all of the cutbacks (especially in regional media) over the past few years I’d probably argue that local news is more important now than it ever was before and is something we probably shouldn’t take for granted.
As far as chequebook journalism is concerned, I’m not sure about everyone else but unfortunately I personally do not believe that there would be a single media outlet in this country who has not been guilty of participating in it at some point or another.
The recent 60 Minutes saga? While I, like most people do think it was an absolute disgrace and is for the most part completely undefendable, somehow I have little doubt that another Australia media outlet would’ve been involved in the story if Nine tuned it down completely.
Generally, I think there’s much more scrutiny of the traditional media outlets by the consuming public than there was even five years ago and that’s probably a good thing.