There must be a rip in the space-time continuum

Something weird is going on today. News Ltd websites are all running the same Herald Sun story (standard practice at News) about how, gasp, there are more visa overstayers and “illegal immigrants” (their words) who arrive by plane than there are asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

At News.com.au it’s the biggest story on the site (by editorial decision and most read, which is, frankly, bizarre, considering their audience):

News.com.au and illegal immigrants

News.com.au finally reports the facts, rather than just "OMG ANOTHER BOAT".

At the Herald Sun, where the story originated, it’s also in the top spot, but quietly, without shouting at the reader:

Herald Sun and immigration

How heraldsun.com.au is displaying the story

At perthnow.com.au, it’s in the top spot:

Perthnow.com.au

The Americans are the bad guys at perthnow.com.au

And at adelaidenow.com.au:

Adelaidenow.com.au and immigration

A small city, perhaps

At couriermail.com.au, it’s in the next spot, under the big main pic:

Couriermail.com.au and immigration

Not just a city, but an entire city

The story is not on the Daily Telegraph‘s homepage at all. I guess it’s because if you run this story – and run it large – then you look stupid the next time you breathlessly report ANOTHERBOATHASBEENINTERCEPTED and ABBOTTSAYSWE’VELOSTCONTROLOFOURBORDERS.

It’s not on the Mercury‘s website either.

Sure, each site running exactly the same story is just web pollution. When I worked at News, the editor’s mantra was the “do what you do best and then link to the rest” line from Jeff Jarvis, while demonstrating that he had no real understanding of Jarvis’ point because he still insisted that we had our own version of exactly the same story. (This is, after all, a guy who insists that the Drudge Report is essential reading for Australian journalists.) But for News Ltd sites to be running this story is a highly unusual situation. It’s got, you know, facts. Of course, it still has inflammatory language: “hiding illegally among us” and “Illegal immigrants have also been involved in drug cartels, sexual slavery, and fraud” (derr, so have many Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi’s). And there’s this:

“Another misconception is that people who arrive by boat are illegal immigrants. Australia is obliged to assess asylum seekers’ claims,” [said Australian Human Rights Commission president Catherine Branson].

There were 10,600 more illegals at June 30 last year than in 2005.

Clearly, the point about using the word “illegal” went over the journalist’s head.

But back to that rip in the space-time continuum. Miranda Devine’s column on women being whistleblowers even mentions feminism in a vaguely positive way. We’ve clearly slipped into an alternative news reality. Or are news editors at News starting to shit themselves because their audience is increasingly pointing out their flawed journalism and laughing at them?

Update: Here’s a quick summary of this post: News Ltd websites, which always pick up AAP copy about every single boat arrival, are running a major story across the network about how boat arrivals aren’t a problem. And Miranda Devine almost said a nice thing about feminism. Cue spooky music, we must be in a different reality. That is all this post is about.

13 responses to “There must be a rip in the space-time continuum

  1. Hmmm. They’ve changed the headline – this morning it read something like “taxpayers wear the cost of 60,000 illegal immigrants”. I wanted to point out that taxpayers also wear the cost of aged pensioners, people on unemployment benefits, people on disability pensions, the ‘baby bonus’, those receiving child benefits… these are all good things; my point is that it’s not new that taxpayers end up paying for stuff that really has nothing to do with them. That’s how tax works. (I realise that paying for illegal immigrants is not how tax is meant to work… I’m just sick of headlines with “ZOMG YOU GUYS, OUR TAXES ARE PAYING FOR THIS!!”)

  2. Hi Kim.
    So you don’t like that every site is running a story that you agree with?
    Also if you read it again, “There were 10,600 more illegals at June 30 last year than in 2005″ referred to the illegal immigrants, not asylum seekers. So it was, in fact, correct.

    Choose your battles.

    • Choose my battles, HD? This is not a battle. I point out dodgy/lazy journalism at Fairfax and News equally. I am an equal opportunity ridiculer.

      That the story is one I happen to think should have been published years ago is irrelevant. (I also believe this sort of information should be in every story about immigration, but that comes back to my belief that journalism should inform, not distort. Every time a journalist reports on a boat being intercepted and doesn’t include information saying that very few asylum seekers arrive in Australia by boat, is distortion.)

      The point of this post is to have a bit of a laugh about the sudden shift in news values from News Ltd, with this story and Devine’s column. The point about duplication and web pollution is one that most people who think about online news consider an important one. Every time a journo duplicates or re-writes someone else’s work is time they should be spending doing original research to add to the public discussion. Or working on a different story altogether.

      Point taken about what “illegals” is referring to in that sentence. But the word is used throughout the article to refer to people who are asylum seekers.

      • By “choose your battles” I didn’t mean attack fairfax not news.

        I just think it’s hypocritical to paint this story as bad, taking cheap shots like “News.com.au finally reports the facts, rather than just “OMG ANOTHER BOAT”. The friends you still have there would be insulted.
        Aside from your point (which I agree with) that this should have been publicised this widely long ago, you write like it should now not have been done at all. I guess what I’m trying to say is: Credit where credit’s due.

        Please point out where else the word “illegals” is used in the article to refer to asylum seekers. I just reread it and I can’t find it.

        • In the quotes mentioned above. Granted, this post was written this morning and so the story could have been changed since then. Perhaps you changed it? And I am not writing like it should not have been published. Please re-read my previous comment to you.

          So you’re saying that News.com.au doesn’t report every boat arrival?

    • I interpreted NWN’s writing to be about an inconsistency.
      1) The reporter quoted the Human Rights Commission president who said it was a ‘misconception … that people who arrive by boat are illegal immigrants.’
      2) The reporter then goes on to refer to ‘illegals’ – without clarifying who is meant by this (and I might add that using an adjective to describe people is in my opinion, not okay).
      I take your point about the statistic though, but I think that reflects on the reporter’s lack of clarity rather than NWN’s analysis.

  3. Thank heavens I wasn’t sipping on my coffee when I clicked on this morning or it would have been all over my screen.

  4. I read an interesting journal article the other day, R. Entman’s ‘Improving newspapers’ economic prospects by augmenting their contributions to democracy’ (2010, in The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol. 15, issue 1) and this bit is relevant here:

    “In an unstable economic environment, newspapers confront an acute dilemma: how to give people more of what they need, more than they now know enough to demand in the marketplace. The solution requires that they interrupt the vicious cycle binding lower quality news production to less-informed and less-interested citizens. The more news production strays from the “core” (Jones 2009) function of enhancing democracy, the more generations of potential consumers learn this lesson: There is little reason to invest their free time consuming serious journalism. So they don’t, and that signals newspapers – and the stock market – to continue redirecting their resources (Hamilton 2004; Entman 1989),” (Entman 2010, p.105).

  5. That’s what you get reading news ltd. You try to help and the defusers do their homework. You write an easily understood critique and the apologists for daddy murdoch try to muddy the waters. At least they read your blog and the genuine journos working for news (ha ha ha a) must feel some shame at their lowly endeavours.

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