Too many of Australia’s political reporters fail the nation, according to an unknown journalist at The Australian. He/she is indeed right. They fail miserably, and he/she should know; our observant little friend works for the biggest culprit of them all. However, the article starts off well:
After a testing year in national affairs, many voters feel detached from a political class that is failing to address the real challenges that threaten Australia’s prosperity. The Weekend Australian shares their disappointment at the inadequate performance of politicians of all stripes, but we believe it is time to turn the searchlight on our own profession and ask whether the media is doing its job of objectively reporting politics. The answer, sadly, must be no. Indeed there is a crisis in political journalism that mirrors the crisis in the political class.
At this point it is easy to assume that journalists at The Australian have been lining up at the confession box. But the opening sentences of the following paragraph provide the first jaw-dropping WTFs that litter the remainder of the article.
The failure of many highly paid and prominent journalists to question the dysfunctional administration of Kevin Rudd was a serious concern. Such failure is bad for public debate, bad for the nation and particularly bad for Labor. It is not just a question of press gallery journalists leaning to the Left. That guilty little secret has been known for decades: Labor has been happy to exploit this bias, the Coalition has learned to live with it.
It gets worse:
There is a deeper malaise . . . born of the tendency for journalists to come increasingly from a tertiary-educated elite with a “disdain for the vulgarity, ignorance and prejudices of working families and their suburbs”. This mind-set dominates the ABC and Fairfax press, generating a false narrative of politics.
Again, WTF! Has this journalist tried listening to the ABC over the past 18 months? Please read on.
The Weekend Australian, too, must always seek to improve its coverage. While we have led the debate in many areas, we recognise there is more we could have done. Yet the promise made to readers in our first edition, on July 15, 1964, that we would be tied to no party, provides a solid framework for our reporting. We have well-developed ideas about what Australia needs and it is against that vision that we assess policies and tactics. This contrasts with most of the gallery, which is obsessed with whether Labor or the Coalition has won the daily battle of tactics rather than asking whether the government has an overall strategy. This is like settling for the “hit and giggle” of Twenty20 over Test cricket. It is made worse by the unequal contest between often-inexperienced reporters and a slick government PR machine.
Labor may feel that this lack of scrutiny makes governing a doddle but it reinforces bad habits, lazy policy and government by press release. Wayne Swan’s vacuous banking package shows how good public policy can be lost when a government is made complacent by journalists out of touch with voters. The gallery’s values are a poor indication of where the centre ground lies. Its dominant mind-set drives an agenda, notably on climate change and asylum-seekers, that is different from the views of middle Australia.
Could they ever think they could print such an article and expect its readership to nod their collective heads in agreement? The most biased, morally corrupt Murdochracy in the country stands on the pedestal shouting they are the only journal in the country that has not only got it right, but is in touch with the aspirations of every Australian. Yes, their collective readership does not its head in agreement, but those people are no better than the journalistic scum that this paper employ.
Christopher Joye, in his Aussie Macro Moments blog challenges The Australian’s mindset in his wonderful blog, The Australian’s war on everything. From the outset Christopher goes on the attack:
Yes, The Australian seems intent on imitating a non-comedic version of The Chaser, with its ‘war on everything’. This weekend it returns to its war on the Press Gallery. A few quick observations.
First, The Australian appears to spend more time defending its own actions in pushing specific agendas and ideological narratives than any other serious media forum on earth (and I don’t include the Global Times in the serious media camp!). This is revealing. It betrays a sense of insecurity. The Australian is clearly not comfortable in its own skin if it has to dedicate so many column inches to rationalising its own decisions. One might ask why…
Second, The Australian’s crusade today is littered with logical inconsistencies. The editorial runs a familiar line, criticising both the Government and the Press Gallery for being out of touch with popular mainstream views on climate change and asylum-seekers. Yet in literally the same breath, The Australian assaults the Government (and the Press Gallery) for its ‘vacuous’ reaction to extraordinarily strong public views on the equity of our banking system. Sorry, but I am confused. You punish the government for listening to the vast majority of consumers on the question of fairness in a taxpayer-backed banking system, but concurrently punish them for ignoring a far less clear majority (minority?) on global warming and asylum-seekers. These are terribly weak intellectual foundations on which to base criticisms of others, and on which to justify your own behaviour.
It’s a good read with much wit.
But seriously, WTF are the people at The Australian thinking?