A broken record

204168-julia-gillard-press-clubThe mainstream media is a broken record, stuck on a never ending whine of alarmism and exaggerated shock and horror over Gillard’s minority government. Clearly disappointed that their dream scenario has not eventuated – Abbott forcing the government to an early election – they continue the tired, boring and inaccurate narrative that the Gillard government is a failure. Never mind Gillard’s hugely successful record of policy progress and economic stability in the face of an ongoing worldwide financial crisis, the mainstream media are stuck in a groove which they will only dig deeper as we head towards the September 14 election.

There’s no doubt that journalists and commentators in the mainstream media are feeling their relevancy quickly slipping away. Rather than assess why it is that people are turning off their news coverage, and instead flooding to social media and independent media, they ramp up their ‘look at us, we’ve got scandal and smear over here’ strategy, which just leaves them looking even more irrelevant, incompetent and desperate. Like a dumped boyfriend who just won’t stop calling.

The following two examples from the past week depict how seriously unbalanced the mainstream media has become. These examples show that any news about the Gillard government is automatically turned into over-hyped sensational scandal, however run-of-the-mill the reality of the situation is.

Gillard calls an election

Sometimes the best way to show how much a situation has changed is to demonstrate how things used to be. Let’s look at the way that Howard’s announcement of the 2007 election was treated by the mainstream press. Here is an article from the SMH by Stephanie Peatling. This is a very straightforward report of Howard’s press conference where he announced the election date, 6 weeks before the election. It is full of quotes from Howard, and explanations of what Howard said, including this classic:

“The Prime Minister said a six-week campaign – one week longer than most campaigns of the past – was a necessary timeframe for voters to consider the issues.”

Note here that Peatling doesn’t comment on Howard’s six-week time frame message. What he says is just taken as given. The article also includes a summary of the current poll environment where Howard’s government is 18 points behind Rudd’s opposition. Howard is quoted as saying:

I have no intention of spending even a nanosecond commenting on opinion polls”

Again, taken as given, no further comment provided. Four lines of the article are dedicated to the issue of whether Costello will ‘transition’ to Prime Minister after the election, should Howard win, in a balanced, reasonable way, never once mentioning the words ‘leadership tension’. The tone is remarkably sensible, measured and calm. The only mention of Opposition leader Rudd, apart from Howard’s quotes criticising him, is the final line of the article that says:

 “Mr Rudd will hold a news conference at 2:15pm this afternoon.”

What a change this sort of article is to what we are served up now, by the likes of ABC, Fairfax, News Ltd, and News Ltd again. First off, it’s completely inappropriate for the Herald Sun to use the Liberal Party’s ‘mini election’ advertisement as the pre-curser to video of the Prime Minister’s press conference.

GillardAnnouncesElectionDate1

Although Fairfax and the ABC didn’t have ads for Tony Abbott on their articles about Gillard’s announcement, they did successfully manage to turn the news into ‘bad for Gillard’, ‘good for Abbott’, as is their predilection when anything happens. The first thing you see on this article in the SMH by Judith Ireland and Daniel Hurst is a video, sub-titled ‘What was she thinking?’ She being the Prime Minister. The tone of this line, no doubt, exactly as it was intended when anyone says ‘what was she thinking?’ In the corresponding video, Lenore Taylor says that Gillard’s decision to call an election over seven months before the election date is ‘highly political’ and Michelle Grattan waffles on nonsensically about how what Gillard said isn’t really what Gillard means.

Directly under the video, there is the obligatory link to an article that’s ALL ABOUT ABBOTT. And just as we’ve had to get used to, the first three sentences of the article are about Gillard’s announcement, and the next two are about Abbott. This happens so frequently that I am sure there’s a template floating around mainstream media newsrooms with cut and paste instructions – ‘short summary of Government news goes here, Abbott’s response no more than 200 words into article’.

Not long after the election was called, while the mainstream media were, coincidentally, listening to Abbott’s content-free press-club response, Craig Thomson was arrested by seven police officers in front of a ready assembled press pack. The timing of this arrest, and the fact that serial Liberal conspirator, Steve Lewis, was first on the scene, is very suspicious for Tony Abbott. This is not an opinion. It’s an obvious observation. So how do the mainstream media respond to this coincidence? Unsurprisingly – ‘bad for Gillard’, ‘good for Abbott’. Just as Craig Thomson is ALWAYS referred to ‘ex Labor MP’, and Peter Slipper is NEVER referred to as ‘ex Liberal MP’, this news, of course, became Gillard’s problem. This ABC Lateline article, headlined ‘Call for Gillard to explain ‘curious’ election timing’, is all about George Brandis’s thoughts on the matter. This is completely representative of the sort of crap that gets broadcast about the Gillard government. Note to journalists everywhere – the Opposition will ALWAYS criticise the government whenever you give them an opportunity. Dog wags tail. Not newsworthy. Anyone with any rational sense can see that the last thing Gillard would have wanted was to announce an election the very week that Thomson was arrested. Abbott, on the other hand, is relishing the diversion from the news that he has no policy yet, nor a vision for the country in which to base a policy platform on. But when it comes to Abbott, the mainstream media follows the rule ‘nothing to see here, move along’. The Ashby conspiracy has been swept under the carpet by the mainstream press and is now seemingly, dead, buried and cremated.

The Resignation of Chris Evans and Nicola Roxon

If you were a cabinet member, either Senator or Member of the Lower House, when would be an optimal time to resign from the cabinet and announce your plans not to stand at the next election? Throw into the mix that you’re representing a minority government that has a press pack ready to attack it every second of the day. I’m thinking the smart move is to wait until the election is called, and then give up your cabinet position for people with the energy and motivation to fight the election, who will go on to deliver the policies as promised during the election campaign. Of course, you could wait until you find yourself unexpectedly in opposition after the election, and resign ‘to spend more time with your family’ like a certain Peter Costello, but is that really fair to your constituents who voted for you to be their Member?

The news of Chris Evans and Nicola Roxon was interesting, and is worth reporting, but is it worth reporting like a ‘scandal’? Apparently so. This article in the Daily Telegraph uses the standard News Ltd propaganda text – ‘disarray’, ‘rocked’, ‘dramatic’, ‘frantic’, ‘shambolic’, to describe the resignation of Roxon, Evans and McClelland. Abbott, of course, gets brought into the scene in sentence number three. This article on News.com has a quote from Christopher Pyne where he explains why Evans has resigned. That’s right, not a quote from Evans about why he has resigned – a quote from Pyne, who appears to be telling readers what Evans thinks, as if he knows better than Evans:

“And for the Senate leader and a cabinet minister to decide that he’s just had enough speaks volumes for a dysfunctional Labor government.”

I’d love to say this sort of behaviour from the mainstream media is ‘unbelievable’, but sadly, it’s not only very believable, it’s systemic.

So going back to 2007, when Howard was in power, and Amanda Vanstone quit her Senate position in April before the October election, it’s very interesting to see how the very same papers who are hyperventilating about the ‘disastrous’ resignations of Roxon, Evans and McClelland responded to Vanstone’s announcement. The day after Vanstone’s resignation, the SMH published a very short APP supplied article announcing the news. Not exactly front page fodder. The day before, the online edition of Adelaide’s News Ltd newspaper published simply a statement by Vanstone, written by Vanstone, with no other comment other than what Vanstone herself chose to say. A couple of days later, Philip Coorey wrote this article in the SMH, which is the closest I could find to opinion about the news. Coorey’s article is about Vanstone’s plans to take up a diplomatic post in Italy. It’s not completely complimentary of Vanstone and the Howard government, but it’s also very far from the shouty, outrage that we are seeing over the news of Labor MPs resignation announcements. And Coorey’s article includes no comment from the then Labor Opposition.

On January 30 this week, the day the election was called, Crikey’s Bernard Keane tweeted:

“All told, I think the last 20 hours is the Australian media’s worst performance since the 2010 campaign.”

Little did Keane know that the week was still young, and that the media were desperate to prove that they could still get worse. Depressingly, there does seem to be only one direction for this industry to go in. Down, down, down to the lowest depths towards a bottom dwelling place well beyond simple journalist failure.

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Categories: Media, Politics

28 replies

  1. The mainstream media are all in “shock and chaos” because they obviously had no prior knowledge about the election date announcement or Roxon and Evans resignations. It makes them look like the inept and lazy pundits they are.
    Funny though how the media knew all about Craig Thompson’s arrest before it occurred.

  2. Victoria

    Excellent stuff. Should be compulsory reading for all the press gallery and their editors. We had reference on ABC Radio National this morning to perceptions of “rats deserting a sinking ship”. Next it’ll be rearranging deckchairs… Roxon and Evans deserve much better from the media.

    A message to those who look for and of course find disarray: the closest we have to a local Federal member is Mark Dreyfus (Andrew Robb hardly counts – where are they hiding him?). Mark would be first pick in any draft – he has real leadership potential. Look forward to his tenure as AG. If you’re interested in policy, tune into Mark.

  3. Yes. Except there are no “lowest depths”.

  4. Gee I enjoy your writing, content and style.
    The MSM is bending democracy to breaking point. And if abbott and murdoch force their way into government they will turn back much of the great work Labor had done for our society. Australia will become a colder and harder place.
    I don’t know what the answer is but it certainly lies in the social media and not the with the big-business riddled MSM.

  5. Victoria, I’d like to add flesh to the ABC news story of the Brandis smear against the PM on Lateline. .

    During her doorstop in Bundaberg after Thomson’s arrest, Gillard categorically denied any prior knowledge of it.

    Man, many hours later on Lateline, George Brandis suggested she had called the election the previous day because she did know, and that she named the election date to somehow distract from this. He went on and on about it, and demanded she explain the ‘curious’ juxtaposition of events.

    Tony Jones was either badly briefed or was focused on his next interview. First he didn’t challenge Brandis on this theory, which was plain silly. More importantly, he didn’t advise Brandis that Gillard had already done what he was demanding she do.

    Next day, ABC online went hard on the Brandis smear in a piece headlined ‘Call for Gillard to explain ‘curious’ election timing. It buried Gillard denial at the foot of the piece.

    This is not journalism, It is either propaganda or news by robots.

    A journalist had two valid options. Ignore the Brandis claims or write a story leading with Gillard denies Coalition claims, or Coalition questions Gillard’s word, or the like…

    The ABC story was unprofessional and unethical and outrageously unbalanced.

    I was shocked (though I’m getting less and less so the longer I observe how low the media has sunk since I retired). I tweeted the story and copied in ABC news and Mark Scott.

    The story stayed put. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-02-01/call-for-gillard-to-explain-curious-election-timing/4494756

    I got no reply from the ABC, and neither did anyone else who complained. I suggested an apology to the PM for so grotesquely thumbing their nose to her word. No reply.

    No wonder – the ABC has now even turned on its own when they question LNP orthodoxy – http://australiansforhonestpolitics.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/faining-outrage-from-the-abc-management/

    At her press conference today announcing the retirement of two minister you could see how heartily sick Gillard is of the MSM. I saw her grit her teeth as she listened to their inanities. She quietly choked when someone asked whether the media would now have to rebalance coverage towards Abbott no he was alternative PM. She smiled ruefully. I tweeted:

    ‘Julia asks for balanced coverage & tells MSM to give people facts/details they need to vote or expect deep suspicions about its good faith.’

    You are right, Victoria. Love your work.

  6. Victoria, another fine piece, exposing once again the bias and ineptitude of what is supposed to be the free press, but what is in reality bought and paid for by the rabid right, and sadly that includes their ABC, as margo has just outlined. :sad:

    Very reminiscent of my poem “The Media” :grin:

    Keep up the good work :grin:

    Cheers :smile: :grin:

  7. Steve Lewis wasn’t “first on the scene” at the Thomson arrest, because he was at the NPC chairing the Abbott speech. Steve Lewis did announce the impending arrest of Craig Thomson, but he wasn’t there for the arrest.

  8. “The Ashby conspiracy has been swept under the carpet by the mainstream press and is now seemingly, dead, buried and cremated.”

    Indeed. The way in which that dirty little scandal was erased from our screens was simply extraordinary.

    I’ve always thought the media-conspiracy types were a little over-hyperventilating but the way in which the Ashby affair and the involvement of Brough,Pyne and Abbott vanished overnight allowed me to re-adjust my thinking.

  9. Everything you have written, has been verified by what we are getting all day today.

    The aim of MSM seems to be, to create a perception in the community, of the PM which is completely false.

    That is a dangerous development in a democracy.

    Good post.

  10. Victoria, great stuff and think you’ve been reading my mind!
    I’m continuing to ‘share’ all this great writing, in the hope many will come and look and read for themselves as well.
    Keep up the brilliant work
    Nell

  11. Julia should call an immediate Media Inquiry just on Lewis involvement in Ashby and Thomson. Hey make it a Royal Commission and put Paul Keating to precide over it. Get the GG on side, and have them all arrested. This is really sad days in Australia. Btw, Lewis was introducing Abbott to the Press Club, and TA didn’t know about the pending arrest, now come on that is a bit step to believe.

  12. I can not stand how political commentators refer to Julia Gillard as ‘she’….it is the height of manners. My mother always told me that it was rude to say she, cause she is the cats mother…i am still to this day not sure what it means, but it is so frustrating to hear people like Chris Kenny on foxtel refer to our pm as she over and over and over…….sooooo rude!!!!

  13. Andrew, of course Lewis would have told him. Abbott’s public facial response to the news was the same as GWB’s facial expression when told of the 9/11 attacks.

  14. Bad manners I meant to say!!!!

  15. Lol Miglo, too true, and the blinking going on when he denied any knowledge of Ashby. This is the true TA story, and it is scary, Anthony John Abbott – Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMbfQ117Jts

  16. Cant we do anything about this bios and inadequate msm reporting? So frustrated!!

  17. The msm has mentioned that Brough might be in line for an important portfolio, but what about this one.. It seems that Brough is hardly worth reporting on, yet if it had been a Labor person there would have been endless speculation not just for weeks, but for months.

    MAL Brough faces a federal police investigation into allegations he encouraged former speaker Peter Slipper’s staff to leak sensitive diaries in a “political conspiracy” to bring down the government.

  18. This is just what I needed this morning after seeing once again the headline on SMH ‘Gillard on the back foot’. I know I am not alone in my frustration with MSM reporting. I am sensing the growing groundswell of support for alternative news sources. With social media in a powerful position to ‘spread the word’, I’m hoping for wider changes at the grass roots level with people getting to the truth.

    The papers have led people to believe that the PM didn’t even know about the two ministers when their departure had been an ongoing conversation between them for months. Who was shocked by the announcement and what was MSM telling us to feel about the announcement.

  19. Listening to the PM now on ABC 24. Does not sound like a lady on the backfoot.

  20. Thanks Catching up. Missed the interview. But know she is definitely NOT on the back foot. There’s no stopping her. She has a staying power and focus that leaves T Abbott for dead. It’s difficult to maintain ‘masks’ at any time. Over an extended period is extremely difficult, particularly for a firebrand like Tony.

  21. We have had Pyne on since. Found himself defending the shadow front bench.

    Once again said they are the adults in the room. Problem for Pyne, he cannot see the elephant.

    Cannot believe it. ABC 24 is doing it’s job today. Balance reporting.

    Do not know how long it will be, before they are pulled into line, as Faine has been.

  22. Only one thing to say.
    This should be compulsory reading for anyone who believes that they are entitled to a vote.

  23. I read the front page of the smh today, the ABC, and now realise there is no hope of balanced media any more. How, in an industry dominated by the left, has the totality of the discourse been dragged to the right. I have to now agree. It is because the PM is a woman. We are not mature enough as a nation for a female as a leader. Disagreement should be just like it was with Howard. Respectful, and factually based. But Australia treats our female leader as undeserving. Like racism, sexism here is just not that far beneath the surface.

  24. Victoria, I haven’t said it yet, but I will now: that was a great read and many thanks for posting it.

    As Margo said – love your work.

  25. So many brilliant Bloggers these days with the ultimate in truthful comments and the News as News and not poor opinions … thanks to you all and this is the reason I never buy a newspaper any more, even for the Births, Deaths and Marriages which for a genealogist are bread and meat. I rely on the Internet!

  26. I would like to know if Julia Gillard knew sometime ago that Mr. Evans and Nicola Roxon was resigning why did she promote Nicola to Attorney General which was a disaster.

  27. Roxon to some might have been a disaster. Yo m any others, including many around the world, taking on the tobacco companies is seen as a world first and a success.

    As AG, Ms. Roxon, for the paltry sum of $50.000 was able to bring the Slipper matter to a speedy end, as far as government involvement was concerned.

    Yes, some do see this government as a failure, others see nothing but success and the country moving forwarded.

    What did Ms. Roxon do, as either Health Minister or AG that was so bad?

  28. Yes, the PM said she knew over 12 months ago. Yes, Ms., Roxon has had the tole of AG for over 12 months. So what.

    I fail to see what some are insinuating.

    Just because some say and believe someone is a disaster foes not make it true.

    One needs a few facts, to back up the accustions..

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