By James Moylan
Like the majority of Aussies I do not mind too much when the editorial slant of a newspaper colours the nature of their reporting. We all expect The Australian and The Fin Review to be right of centre. We expect The Age and the SMH to be middle of the road. We turn to The Guardian when we want to read something written by someone wearing a heart on their sleeve.
However even with a restricted variety of ideological flavours available, the news-stand in Australia has always been a pretty reliable place. Regardless of the particular flavour of your newspaper it still reported pretty much the same spectrum of ‘news’ as all the others. Some had a little bit more politics and some had a little more populist pap, but it was still pretty much the same ‘news’.
However today I picked up The Australian and discovered it was simply impossible to read. I found I couldn’t believe half of what I was being told and most of the stories just didn’t look like ‘news’.
No I am not being histrionic. Way back when I was a lad I spent a fair bit of time working as a journalist. So I am well able to spot what a ‘news’ story should look like. I even know a little bit about how editorial decisions are made. And at first glance the whole front page of The Australian just didn’t contain any ‘news’.
To ensure I wasn’t just having a bad head day I visited the front page of The Age, The Courier Mail, and The Guardian.
The Courier Mail led with an opinion piece about the ‘Housing bubble at risk of popping’. The next was about a report on toxic chemicals being found in the groundwater of a Qld town, then a grisly little story about human remains being found in a croc.
The Age led with the breaking news that a body has been sighted in the search for a missing Aussie in Rio (along with quotes from a tearful girlfriend), followed by political analysis about Turnbull slowly losing his popularity, point by point, then a story about email scammers, then one about misogyny in the Army. Under this was another opinion piece full of criticism about the way in which left wing protesters have been conducting themselves recently.
The Guardian featured articles about the big rainfall event being experienced all across Eastern Australia, shark attacks, floods in Europe, Bernie Sanders, and a sick Muhammad Ali.
So it was not the whole of the press. It seemed that all the other newspapers were still reporting much the same news in their own particular flavour. They all contained a few ‘Opinion pieces’ but these were a mixed ideological bag. Most significantly these ‘Opinion pieces’ were readily distinguishable from the ‘news’.
Then I turned back to the Australian. Under the headline ‘Activists ‘distorting’ reef data’, the lead story described how the Great Barrier Reef bleaching event has been entirely overstated by virtually all the scientists and that the destruction of 20% of the reef was really no big thing at all. The next ‘story’ bemoaned how the ‘Lawfare’ being waged by a bunch of green activists in Queensland have hounded the poor billionaire coal mine developer Gautam Adani to such an extent that he might have to abandon his proposed Adani coalmine in central Queensland. Following this was (yet another excusive) story devoted to describing how: ‘A crackdown on payments to unions from employers threatens millions of dollars that flow to the ALP.’ Then a piece about how a big church will stop cooperating with the government entirely if they dare to legalise gay marriage.
Then at last the fifth and sixth articles actually did refer to events in the election campaign and so might be typified as ‘news’. However instead of reporting on the $160 mill of spending on the arts that was announced by Labor The Australian decided that the real story was that ‘Leaders announce more spending’ (which was obviously unsustainable). A second election story was about how the Labor Party and the LNP are ganging up to defeat the Greens using a ‘preference pact’ – which at first blush seems a tad unlikely considering that in the new voting system there are no longer any preferences to be given to anyone.
Then a story entitled ‘Red flags all over Safe Schools’ which was about how the Safe Schools anti-bullying Campaign is actually a front for the Marxist corruption of our youth.
Other ‘articles’ included ‘A dream to light darkened nights’ which was all about how ‘Gautam Adani wants to bring Indian villagers into the bright 21st century.’ How a ‘Vote for Labor will maim miners’. Also how ‘Word police are on the beat’, and it’s an ‘Exciting time to take offence’. Plus two additional rabidly ideological screeds entitled: ‘Reports of reef’s death exaggerated’ and ‘Senate shaping to deny mandate’.
I can cope with one or two politically charged articles. I do not mind being presented with a slant on the news. But most of these stories are simply not ‘news’. Most of these stories are pure propaganda pieces dressed up as ‘news’. These articles cherry pick information to make an ideological point that often runs counter to both common sense and reality. For example: to assert that there has been little damage to the reef when everyone in Australia has seen the footage of hundreds of square kilometres of bleached and dying coral, in not just one but two articles on the front page, whilst also featuring an article about how an Indian Coal Billionaire is actually entirely preoccupied with the health and well-being of the poor, is simply perverse. I can suspend my disbelief when I am watching the Lord of the Rings but I should not have to do the same when trying to read a ‘newspaper’!
So I will now simply give up reading The Australian. It has finally jumped the shark. It is now apparent that the editorial team have entirely given up on trying to report news and have instead decided to become a part of the political circus. Being a backer of a political viewpoint is perfectly acceptable but The Australian has finally morphed into being a public relations outlet working for the LNP, the far right wing, and the fossil fuel sector. It no longer resembles a newspaper in anything but shape and layout.
In The Australian coal is good for humanity, teachers are disreputable communists who want to corrupt children, the Great Barrier Reef is in wonderful condition, evil unions are trying to impoverish workers, gays are out to destroy the traditional family, climate change does not exist, and there is no housing bubble. In other words the editors of The Australian are now deliberately tailoring its content so as to pander to the bigotries of a very small, very right-wing, readership.
The editors at The Australian are able to abandon the vast majority of Aussies because, unlike most newspapers in our country, The Australian doesn’t have to make money. This champion of market forces has been running at a loss for years (which is entirely understandable considering the sort of crap that is being retailed on its front page). But the US parent corporation remains willing to bear these eternal losses because they understand that The Australian is not really a ‘news’ paper. They spend this money to support an effective Advertising and Public Relations outfit. In fact they keep supporting The Australian precisely because it is no longer a ‘news’ paper.
But for the life of me I can’t work out why anyone else would support or read the rag.
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