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No, Dreamworld’s not really a ghost town.

For those of you unacquainted with my deeply cynical and off the cuff style of writing, let me add to the long list of writers who have started an article with a similar cliche as this and say g’day, i’m Ben, and I work in advertising.

Why is this important? Well, when you spend as much time as I do around marketing heads, content strategies, marketing briefs and Public Relations folks you start to really get a feel for the machine that, for better or worse, helps brands communicate to the world. I say better or worse but surprisingly, in my case anyway, free of sarcasm,  I really do love advertising, but if there’s something that gets my goat about the industry at large more then anything in this world it’s when I see a news story circulating that either gets half the facts right, or twists them so far into the abyss that it’s clear the only thing the writer or “journalist” cared to consider was how many clicks the title would ultimately garner for the publisher.

FYI, this is called clickbait.
FYI, this is called clickbait.

Now i’ve tackled this multiple times in the past few years when big news companies have decried roller-coasters like Movie World’s Green Lantern Ride as unsafe because of a routine stop in operation during the course of a normal day. I’ve even gotten the odd call or off-cuff remark from my own mother about how unsafe the rides are at the places I frequent and do business with. “Oh, did you hear about “insert ride name here” stopping at the top of the lift hill and people were stranded/left for dead/stuck for minutes/hours/days?” She’d mention as if I hadn’t already known and yet every time i’d take a deep breath and calmly reply “No, mum. These things are rather routine.” “How so?” “Well, mum,” I would always continue. “These things happen all the time for a number of reasons. If someone takes out their phone on a ride, an operator will stop the ride. If there’s a bird on the track, they’ll stop the ride for that too. There’s actually absolutely nothing abnormal about a ride stopping, and when you consider how many hundreds of parts and sensors are on each ride, you’d hope the ride, by design, practices the theory of “better to be safe then sorry, right Mum?”

Here's a ride that's stopped. It's not broken, it's just stopped. Surprisingly, there's a difference.
Here’s a ride that’s stopped. It’s not broken, it’s just stopped. Surprisingly, there’s a difference.

You can imagine by this point i’ve taken great delight in sucking the life out of the conversation in its entirety and the topic quickly segues onto something more interesting. Never the less, big news continues to, without putting it lightly, pander to fear mongering instead of calm, journalistic reporting when it comes to our theme parks. One day its Sea World’s Storm Coaster, another it’s Green Lantern at Movie World and then, of course more recently, it was the tragedy that happened at Dreamworld.

Now, firstly, i’m not going to rehash that story. If you don’t know what i’m talking about, here’s an absolutely fact-only piece I wrote when it all happened. That’s not to say i’m trying to bury it either, oh contraire. What I do think is that enough time has passed that we can now respectfully begin moving forward and begin looking ahead and not behind us. That’s when I see stories like this that, quite honestly, make my blood boil. 

Firstly, i’m not a journalist, but last time I checked, actual journalistic reporting wasn’t based off “personal opinion” and “what someone else said”, so much so that you could write a damning piece with enough sting to hurt an iconic brand. Never the less, apparently one shot taken of Dreamworld’s carpark at “some time yesterday” is plenty good enough to form the basis of an article on. Throw in your anecdotes, and you don’t just have an opinion piece, you have a bonafide, credible news article!

Talking about agendas, to be clear, I too have an agenda. I’m obviously very pro theme parks, and in terms of Dreamworld, a large part of my childhood is centred around a place that, like a lot of others, i’d almost call it my second home, at least at one point in time or another. But beyond theme parks i’m also very pro Australian. I am extremely proud of the country I call home, and while I may not have a southern star tattoo or fly an Australian flag in my backyard I do have a profound appreciation of just how lucky I am to live in this incredible country. And one reason in particular sticks out to me why, and it’s the fact that in this country, we’re all mates, and boy howdy, do we look out for our mates. It’s a concept ingrained into our DNA, like Vegemite or dingoes eating our babies. In fact, i’m not exaggerating at all that we would go to war and die for our mates, our friends and indeed our families, and for that reason alone it’s why we all share a profound appreciation for our ANZACs, our diggers and our rich history.

What i’m getting at is that ultimately, when a mate of ours, be it friend or family falls down, it’s down right un-Australian not for us to step in and lend a helping hand. So when I read articles like this I think to myself (albeit, after a few deep breaths)…

Here's News Corps smoking gun, a photo of a car park taken at "sometime" yesterday. Well that must mean Dreamworld are going under then!
Here’s News Corps smoking gun, a photo of a car park taken at “sometime” yesterday. Well that must mean Dreamworld are going under then!

(Ahem) For starters, this isn’t some overseas conglomerate who’s trying to dazzle Australians and make people forget what happened. If you want to know what that looks like, try Disney, who have yet to close a single park globally in response to a death in over 60 years of operation, despite having a number of deaths so notable it has its own Wikipedia article. Nope, this is a group of friends and families who work together, who, in light of tragedy, took immediate responsibility for what happened and unquestionably did absolutely everything they could to support the families it hurt the most, to support their hundreds of fellow friends and family who work at the park in any way they could and to support their guests in the wake and subsequent re-opening in every way possible. To be fair, it was a tumultuous process with incredible media scrutiny, there’s no doubting that. But as far as disasters go, there’s always a right way and a wrong way when it comes to handling them, and i’d like to think ultimately the park made the right moves and danced a very fine tight rope with an admirable degree of precision.

So why on earth are we then, as Australians, kicking another Australian while they’re down? It gets my goat that sensationalism like this gets front and centre. Never mind that a story of mate-ship and coming together to support one another hides just below, which is exactly what the team, nay, the family at Dreamworld are trying to do as I write this very article.

Oh, and it is sensationalism, just by the way. Here’s a number of photos below that I took of the new Fire Machine Show at Dreamworld just a few nights ago. There’s not just one or two people, there’s a freakin’ sea of people, empty car park be damned.

There’s also a myriad of contradicting reports from park regulars. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, and it seems my journalistic brethren think that is, then by my own sources, apparently they report that “For those who like carpark reports it was 85% full with people still arriving” or “a decent crowd still in the park” , or hell, let me pick an actual comment from the article in question that thinks doom and gloom is upon Dreamworld that says, (and i’m not kidding) “Not sure when the car park pic was taken, I went past at 1230 yesterday and the car park was full.” 

I’m not discrediting tragedy at all. But in light of tragedy, we should be doing everything we can to support one another, and right now, an Australian icon that’s filled to the brim with an Australian family needs you on their side. Can we all be a good mate, go and say g’day and stop with the rubbishing of a famous Aussie right of passage? Because if there’s anything I discovered in light of the tragedy that happened at Dreamworld was that it struck us all in an intimate way because, like me, we all hold this place of once in a lifetime memories so very dear. And I don’t know about you, but it’d be a real bloody shame for us to lose something we all love because the facts got in the way of a good story.

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