We should demand something better than this

This is the main story on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald today: Abbott opens fire at ‘low’ PM:

Tony Abbott has accused Julia Gillard of “low bastardry” in disclosing that he had declined her offer to travel together to Afghanistan to visit Australian troops.

As the Australian officer in charge of the Afghanistan deployment warned it was “not the time to get the wobbles”, the Opposition Leader – at the end of a full-day visit to the coalition base in Tarin Kowt – said he had personally told the Prime Minister weeks earlier that he planned to visit separately.

The only voice in the story is Tony Abbott’s. It’s not even ‘he said, she said’ journaliam – it’s essentially a 644-word opinion piece from the Opposition Leader calling the Prime Minister names. And the SMH calls this ‘reporting’. Really? How is this ok?

In July, I wrote about how I still read the Sydney Morning Herald every day. About how newspapers are put together by experienced editors, whereas news websites are put together by relatively inexperienced editors who let the ‘most popular’ list dictate their news sense – the fastest way to lose credibility as a news source.

Why do I care so much? Because newspaper reading is still the best way to raise awareness of public affairs, because they are structured to lure readers to stories they may not have been interested in (Schoenbach et al, 2005). There is no evidence that news websites increase this awareness of public affairs (Lee, 2009). And isn’t the whole point of news about telling the audience what’s going on in their world?

Lee, C (2009), ‘Pixels, paper, and public affairs: a comparison of print and online editions of The Age newspaper’, Australian Journalism Review, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 91-104.

Schoenbach, K., de Waal, E., & Lauf, E (2005), ‘Research Note: Online and Print Newspapers: Their Impact on the Extent of the Perceived Public Agenda’, European Journal of Communication, vol. 20, pp. 245-258.

9 responses to “We should demand something better than this

  1. Amen.
    AT the moment I read The Australian and The Courier Mail daily. (Because that’s what my corner store stocks, I cannot read the local rag. It is just yuk.) And I am always disappointed with what counts as news, and particularly jaded and pissed off at the rot The Australian continues to turn out.

    I read SMH and The Age online. But still, I’d rather get my news from blogs these days….

  2. It read like a piece in the Oz and the fact that the journo has stated that the leak did not come from Gillard’s office has been relegated to a short buried sentence in every article about this. interesting. The Abbott adoration by the meeja continues.

  3. The Australian

  4. I find that the weekend SMH still has some interesting articles and op-ed pieces to read, with some obvious exceptions, but the daily paper seems to be getting lazier and poorer in journalistic content and basic news reporting.

    I am not sure (not being a journalist) whether this is a result of the daily grind of a news cycle and the pressures of short timeframes and reliance on media statements from the politicians but hasn’t this always been the case – why would it be any harder now given that technology allows information to be sought, disseminated, translated and transported more easily and quicker than say in 1952!

    • There are a few reasons: management has cut editorial staff in newsrooms, so you’ve got fewer people putting the paper together; most online newsrooms just use AAP copy instead of getting their own journos to pick up the phone; and most organisations now demand you submit your questions in writing, so someone in the PR dept can write non-replies and there’s no chance the person you actually want to talk to might say something interesting.

      I’m actually looking forward to paywalls – I think it’ll be a great way of improving the quality of journalism.

  5. Pingback: Removing men from families | the news with nipples

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