Dear Sydney Morning Herald

On page six of today’s Sydney Morning Herald you’ll find this story (it’s not even on their homepage, you have to dig to find it): Experts dismiss Treasury concerns over job cuts:

ECONOMISTS have rejected NSW Treasury estimates that the carbon tax would slash 31,000 jobs in the state.

Professor John Quiggin, from the School of Economics at the University of Queensland, said the job figures were ”meaningless” because they failed to take into account the larger number of jobs likely to be created in renewable energy industries.

Bill Mitchell, a professor of economics from the University of Newcastle, said the carbon tax would actually increase jobs.

Yet yesterday’s front page screamed this: Carbon tax ‘will cost’ 31,000 NSW jobs:

THE carbon tax will hit NSW harder than any other state on the mainland and cost at least 31,000 jobs, particularly in regional areas, a NSW Treasury review has found.

(Based on the number of jobs mentioned in the story, only 9850 will go, but maybe an economist could explain where the 31,000 figure comes from. In which case, bad reporting.)

Of the 459 words in this front page story, only 72 could be considered any sort of balance. Those 72 are on Greg Combet. The rest simply – and uncritically – report the Treasury modelling. What would actually be useful in this story, and what would make it a balanced and objective story, is someone who is not a politician commenting on the modelling.

We had to wait for today to get that. And we got a story with three economists saying the modelling is shit, plus comment from the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and Greens MP John Kaye. Buried on page six. You know, without balance, political reporting is just propaganda.

So, I counted the number of voices in every national story in today’s SMH from page one to page six. I excluded the Pulver bomb story because it’s not the usual reporting style, although, it must be said, 379 words on the fictional Dirk Struan and 267 words on the use of collar bombs in Hollywood movies is taking the piss.

Of the stories, seven have just one voice. Six have two voices, but half of these are really one voice stories: one is based on a media release with a quote from a different media release; another features a single quote from a second person at the very end; and another is about the asylum seekers being sent to Malaysia and features a meaningless quip from Scott Morrison, “It’s a catch-22 of the government’s own making”. Only two stories have three voices, but are not balanced because most of the voices belong to the Coalition. One story features no quotes but gives lot of information.

The majority of stories in today’s Sydney Morning Herald are just one person’s opinion. Where’s the fucking balance in that? Where’s the journalism? You know, the thing that journalists are supposed to do and the thing that we pay for? (Oh ok, that and the DA and diabolical sudoku.)

So here’s the bit where I go “Dear Sydney Morning Herald“.

Dear Sydney Morning Herald,
I read you every day. The newspaper version, because I’m not so keen on your website. But I don’t think “we’re not News Ltd” is a good enough business model.

It’s not the celebrity stories and endless pictures of Miranda Kerr that are making your audience lose respect for you. (If I want to see famous boobies, I know where to find them on the internet.) It’s the mediocre everyday journalism.

Maybe we can do a deal? If you publish balanced stories – and that’s true balance, not just one voice from the Government and one from the Opposition – I’ll keep my subscription. AND I’ll tell all my friends that you’re putting out a good newspaper again. A newspaper that’s worth buying. But somehow I don’t think you’ll care. After all, there’s no evidence in your current newspaper that you care about your readers.

20 responses to “Dear Sydney Morning Herald

  1. Send a letter to SMH re your findings. It’s not hard to get a letter in their page.

  2. Yes, this. SO frustrating.

    But really, why be as good as you can be when you only have to be better than the opposition? /snark

  3. I have just completely stopped reading newspapers. Lazy of me, no doubt.

    • I love them – well, the idea of newspapers – but I’m always disappointed by them. I’ll take a newspaper put together by an editor in their 50s or 60s with decades of journalism experience over a news site put together by an editor in their early 30s with as much experience as me, any day. Online editors make their news decisions based on the most popular list, which just feeds off itself. When all you give people is sex, crime, and sex crimes, then of course those stories make it into the top 10, then news editors give readers more of it. Idiots. I could talk for hours on how online editors in Australia don’t know what they’re doing.

      • Yes, I like the IDEA of newspapers too…and used to be a pretty regular Canberra Times reader…and when I go to parents’ house I read papers, and Quarterly Essays, and Monthly Magazines, and that Jesuit one, etc etc, but I don’t spend money on them myself. (Pretty much like I leave activism, charity-spending, letterboxing and volunteer work to my parents too – *sigh*)

  4. I admire your persistence.

  5. Stupidity would be buying the telegraph or oz.

    • I don’t know about stupid. I have an exceptionally high IQ and buy the OZ (and the SMH) most days.
      Off topic somewhat, perhaps GetUp is lining up to commence legal action against NSW treasury for daring to model in such a way as predicts negative outcomes from left wing policies.
      Economists are all morons anyway. The quote above illustrates this perfectly ‘failed to take into account the larger number of jobs likely to be created in renewable energy industries.’ Likely, so what are these jobs? This is best case scenario day dream stuff that economists take as fact.
      In any case I doubt the workers who lose their jobs will be buoyed too much at the idea of someone else getting one in their place.

  6. There’s a headline on the SMH site at the moment that refers to Labor rather than the Government or the PM. Why why why? It is annoyingly underminey (can’t think of a better description, I’m already 2 wines down).

  7. And that’s before we talk about the ludicrous business of calling it a news story that Kristina Keneally turned up with a new haircut, then piling on the offence with Damien Murphy at the back of Saturday’s SMH News Review acting as if this was her fault (“Keneally has been hard at it again, making it difficult not to trivialize her achievements”). *Disgust.*

  8. How many ways could I say thank you? Would be lovely if they listened to you, however the chances of that happening are about equal to a snow flakes in hell.

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