Shoegate, aka how the Australian news media is failing their readers

Let’s play a little game I like to call “Fun with the Snipping Tool”.

At 9.20am, this how the main news websites in Australia are covering last night’s opportunity for the public to ask questions of the second-longest serving prime minister – one who took Australia into two wars – which was televised on the national public broadcaster.

At smh.com.au, it’s in the top spot, so it’s considered the most important story on the website:

At brisbanetimes.com.au, it’s also the most important story on the website:

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

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

At news.com.au, it gets the main pic treatment:

At theaustralian.com.au, it’s the main pic:

At watoday.com.au, it’s also the main pic:

At perthnow.com.au, it’s in the spot for the second most important story of the day:

At dailytelegraph.com.au, it’s in the second spot:

At couriermail.com.au, it’s in the second spot:

AdelaideNow is the only major news website in Australia NOT giving this story top billing:

Now, if you think the purpose of the news media is to entertain, then you probably don’t give a shit about this. But there are plenty of other things that are genuinely entertaining, so why would you bother watching the news to get a giggle?

But if – like me – you think the purpose of the news media is to inform their audience about what’s going on in their world, and give them the information they need to make decisions about their world, then this is a colossal failure.

This post is not about Fairfax or News Ltd. It’s about the Australian news media, because the shoe thrower has been all over ABC Radio this morning as well. I note that his question about Australia’s involvement in the war in Iraq was never really answered:

And still hasn’t been answered.

Update: A story needs to “move on” and so news organisations are falling over themselves to get comment from the shoe thrower. Why? Watch the footage from QandA – it’s pretty clear why he threw his shoes at John Howard. So why not chase Howard for an answer to his question about Australia’s involvement in the war in Iraq? Or for answers to any questions, since he’s clearly in media whore mode to plug his book.

Update 2: I care about this because I am a journalist and I think we’re doing a completely shit job at being relevant. Once those paywalls go up, we’ve got nothing to offer our readers.

31 responses to “Shoegate, aka how the Australian news media is failing their readers

  1. hey, maybe you should also post on this story. Shrill???? Would you ever call a male PM that, Tony?

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/government-has-lost-its-way-says-abbott-20101026-171dd.html?autostart=1

  2. I dunno NWN, I think it is fair news to report. Its a parallel between what happened (although seems slightly less aggressive and affecting somehow) with Bush in Iraq. Annoyingly, I missed Shoe and A last night but was quite interested to know about it this morning. Mind you I was more annoyed that I missed Howard defending his term of office and being subject to the ‘people’ something he generally avoided during office. I was actually more interested in hearing that David Hicks was a video question because Howard was directly confronting his accuser (than I was by the show) and I think that is v newsworthy.

    Of course how the incident is reported is often the issue in whether we are being let down by our media. I’ll let you know how I feel after I have read some of the reports…you must have been up v early today to have seen all these!

    Of course the child in me is still smirking at the Adelaide news headlines and I know K will be too

    • Yes, report it by all means, but it shouldn’t be the only story.

      • It wasn’t….there was the penis tattoo 🙂

      • My point is that a reader who isn’t interested in hard news (and the way this has been covered does not make it a hard news story, by the way), isn’t going to click on a political story, but they will read the headline and standfirst. So, all they lear from news websites/radio/tv tonight about Howard’s appearance on QandA is that some guy threw his shoes at him. That’s it. If the headline was ‘I take full responsibility for Iraq war – Howard’, they’d at least learn that.

    • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the five years in Gitmo that Hicks ‘endured’ was too good for him. He ought to have had a bullet put in the back of his head and his father sent the bill.
      I still fail to grasp how it was Howard’s fault he abandoned his own children to go shoot other children in Hashmir. I fail to grasp how it was Howard’s fault he took up arms against his own people.
      On the use of the word shrill etc I am convinced that they use these words intentionally just to piss you off. They are fishing for a reaction from Gillard really.

      • Kimsonof, you’re right about using the word shrill to get a reaction. Gillard will never respond to that, but if other women do, Abbott can just do his ‘sheesh, women get upset over nothing, don’t they?’ routine, to which many Australians will say ‘yes, they do’, ignorant of the fact that he’s doing everything he can to undermine her power in a way that he’d never do to a male PM.

        • Oh, and to reply to the first part of your comment, Guantanamo Bay is a revolting abuse of human rights and by leaving Hicks there for five years – and make no mistake, he’d still be there if public sentiment hadn’t turned – John Howard showed us that he thinks it’s ok to torture prisoners of war. I’m not saying Hicks is a hero and I’m not saying that I agree with anything he did, but torture is never ok.

          • No certainly not however the view seemed to be that somehow Howard was running Gitmo which he wasn’t. There is only so much you can do as a political leader to force the hand of foreign officials regarding prisoners.
            The reason why he was there so long was because the left insisted that the military commissions were unacceptable (mind you the same people on the left also believe that a military commission – in the form of a courts martial – is ok for Australian soldiers) and at the same time they thought that having the prisoners there for so long was unacceptable as well. I guess they wanted all the terrorists bailed and trusted to appear in court without a bomb attached to their persons.
            As for the torture the only evidence for that is the word of terrorists and their lawyers, hardly reliable sources.
            I agree that he shouldn’t have been in limbo for so long and that torture is abhorent (I think I have made that clear in our discussions on East Timor) however it is thge fault of the left that he wasn’t quickly tried and convicted and sent to a regulation prison.

  3. Whilst I often don’t agree with the views expressed on this blog, I tend to agree with this post.

    I think its a shame that the shoe-throwing incident overshadowed Howard’s engagement with the Q & A audience on all the major controversies surrounding his Prime Ministership. This was a chance to look back on the Howard years and consider Howard’s point of view.

    Howard performed admirably in defending his views and actions. Whether you agree or disagree with what he says, it must be said that he is steadfast in his convictions, in contrast to the likes of Rudd, Gillard, Abbott et al. His views are also expressed in a very simple yet articulate manner which enables everyone to understand his arguments.

    If anything, the shoe-thrower demonstrated how hysterical and unreasonable some of Howard’s critics are. The shoe-thrower therefore only bolstered Howard’s credibility.

    • And Leon Bertrand, I don’t often agree with your views (which are welcome here, by the way), but I will agree on your last point: that the shoe thrower ruined his serious and excellent question with his actions. He’s ensured that his point is lost, because no one likes to see a young guy throwing things at an old man.

  4. “throws like a girl” – what a douchebag.

  5. infotainment, makes the government controlled media hare look like revolutionaries…

    • Plus, what’s the point of having every single media outlet covering the same story exactly the same way? ‘Let’s do exactly the same thing as our competition in each state’ ain’t much of a business strategy.

  6. It was the main story on smh.com.au from about 10.17pm last night. A story it is, yes. But the top one for hours, no.

    BTW, like Lorana, I feel an incredible urge to explode regarding the recently (?) adopted and, reported without recourse, ‘language’ used by male politicians and media alike regarding women occupying significant positions of power. Of notable mention is Alan Jones and the campaign re Brigadier Lyn McDade (as reported in Media Watch last night) – ‘that woman’ etc. In addition to his abhorrent attempt to prejudice a trial, his sexist approach in his rants is chilling.

    • And the biggest “punishment” Jones can get is a tut tut on Media Watch.

      • ‘That woman’ is about as nice as Jones can get when on a rant. For men he uses goose, coward, moron etc. The last one is more appropriate for ‘Brig’ McDade and that has nothing to do with her sex and everything to do with her actions which themselves are the result of institutional sexism.

    • Alan Jones is a total douche bag! The problem is that his abhorrent way of speaking and insulting just gets ignored (allowed). The only aspect I can say in regards to women’s rights in this instance, is that he is equally intolerant of every other demographic (or mixed demographic) who isn’t white, male, hetero, wealthy and living in eastern suburbs Sydney. I am astounded he still gets so much air time on shows and commentaries other than his own.

      Why do we (the nation) indulge and in fact encourage such open bigotry. I guess this comes back to NWN’s oft repeated complaints of entertainment posing as news and current affairs.

  7. I boycotted qanda last night, JWH is not good for my blood pressure… just thinking about him makes me ranty ranty stab myself in the head…. I still got running commentary from greenie-bikeriding-man… and then today the shoe throwing has been everywhere… ugh, just ugh… I want JWH to go away… and be gone forever…

    There are so many rant tracks I could go down right now… but I’ll refrain…

  8. It is actually terrifying how penetrating he is. I have been touched by Alan Jones and his most recent campaign. Well, not physically or emotionally, rather, electronically; a colleague sent me a link to his petition. That is how I learn’t of the movement against the charges laid. And to think the campaign is so heavily laden with such shocking sexist language.

    Media Watch commented only on the potential for charges to be laid under the Military Act, and explained why he can not be charged for his current prejudicial behaviour when the military court has not yet been commissioned. Surely where a legal case can not be mounted, media codes must have been breached in the very fucking least. I am off to do some research on the issue.

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