The readers’ editor

As you can imagine, I’m quite interested in the new readers’ editor at the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun Herald: It’s about you, and I’m on your side:

Each Wednesday I will write about what you consider pressing matters but I will also speak to and email those who raise pertinent questions.

You will ask the questions and I will do my best to answer them by speaking to editors, reporters, photographers and the production team.

I’m not confident though. I worry that instead of “an advocate in the newsroom for our readers”, it will be little more than a column to justify news decisions when criticised by readers.

As I’ve said here before, I’m a Fairfax reader. I’m a Fairfax reader because you couldn’t pay me to read The Australian or the Daily Telegraph. If the ABC or SBS printed a newspaper I’d buy that. Ooh, that’s an idea. An iPad newspaper, so no printing costs and I wouldn’t have to look at the fucking awful news websites that News Ltd and Fairfax have.

But I digress. As an example, let’s look at today’s carbon tax story: Power price warning ‘based on gouging theory’:

THE NSW government’s dire warnings about electricity price rises are based on the assumption that the state’s generators will ”price gouge” by charging households one and a half times the increased carbon costs the power stations incur, the Minister for Climate Change has alleged.

There are two voices in the story: Greg Combet and Tony Abbott. Greg Combet and Tony Abbott being predictable, predictably disagreeing with each other. Two politicians on opposite sides disagreeing with each other. Woop-di-fucking-do.

Where are the quotes from experts outside of politics? Where is the Herald‘s own analysis? Where is evidence that a Herald journo has looked at the modelling they are arguing over? And I’m none the wiser as to who is telling the truth.

So, my criticism of the SMH and SH is simple: make it better than this. If you want balance and transparency – and to raise circulation figures and UBs and PIs – then stop simply repeating what politicians say.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. Let’s see what happens next Wednesday, eh?

24 responses to “The readers’ editor

  1. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  2. Well it is definitely a poorly written story, that’s for sure. However my issue with what they’re saying in general is that energy companies will raise their prices to cover the cost of the carbon tax. Now please someone fill me in, isn’t it illegal for the energy companies to do that? Doesn’t that obviously defeat the purpose of the carbon tax? Has the government not foreseen that would happen and made a way to stop that? It was my understanding that the carbon tax is SUPPOSED to cost energy companies a lot so they finally see spending money on efficient energy as a viable option in terms of maximising profits, not tip the bill to consumers.

    • You would think it illegal but it isn’t. Indeed here in NSW I recall the power companies jacking up prices (as they do constantly) a while back and blaming the then CPRS (this was prior to the night of the long knives)
      It is of course basic capitalism that a company will increase prices as the price of inputs increases.
      Viv the carbon Tax I want to know what is planned to replace coal power – that actually works on a large scale. Obviously nuclear is off the table for some absurd reason (and the first person to mention chernobyl and the Japanese tsunami make my list of slappable persons.)

      • I believe that nuclear power is not a viable option because even though it is technically clean, there is no eco-friendly way of getting rid of the dangerous waste it produces. And you know, why just swap one problem for another? Unless we could trust companies to just pay to have their waste blasted off to space or something, though every rocket is rather pollutant.

        Australia could technically do geo-thermo power, you know the one where you use the heat from under ground to super heat water into steam that produces energy? Because Australia actually has the best location for that in the world and apparently the potential is great enough to power half the world I believe. So on a smaller scale you would think powering Australia is simple, but hey, why spend a few billion dollars on a cleaner future when coal is so much cheaper right? Ass hole capitalists. Is it so too much to ask for a business that’s purpose is to stimulate the economy so they are built on a sense of duty to the world or the country rather than being built on a foundation of greed? I mean, what do CEOs even do with their million’s and billions of dollars anyway? What is the point of having so much money, it is a concept I can’t wrap my head around as all I want is enough to pay the bills and a little in the bank for when I need it, oh and of course enough to retire comfortably into a stress less lifestyle.

        • Soap box ranty pants! Love it 🙂

        • Oh so goethermal is a proven and ready to operate technology? The thing that gets me is that the government rather than investing in these amazing technologies just pass the buck to consumers in the belief that a company that for example mines coal for power generation will happily change to being a company that watches the sun soak into photovoltaic cells. Easy as that. They also tell us of all the as yet unspecified jobs that will be created which will be of little comfort to those who will lose theirs in return. (what I mean is it is unlikely that a coal miner will find work in the wind farm industry etc.)
          As for your anti capitalist rant – fuck off to North Korea and see how well the alternative works (you know the famine, the extra judicial murder, the slavery) Capitalism works because greed inspires entrepreneurs to innovate in areas where there is money to be made. Why should a particular company pay for what the government should be?
          Please don’t report me to the politburo commie.

          • I wholeheartedly agree that governments (state and federal) are not doing enough – or anything – to invest in technology. I don’t believe there is one source of power that will replace our reliance on coal, but lots of different sources of power.

          • Yes geothermal is proven and ready to operate and has been successful in countries such as Japan, the Philippines, Italy, hell even New Zealand are onto it as I believe the 7th largest users of Geothermal energy in the world.

            And I’d rather not fuck off to North Korea thankyou, and I think it’s unfair that you would use that as an example when I would put that down to over ambiguity and poor leadership. You forgot to mention Sweden, with one of THE most successful social structures in the world, low crime, happy people, good education. Yes I prefer a socialist structure as an alternative to capitalism. Why do people have to jump to communism and why does it have such a negative stigma? I mean Russia did extremely well out of it (apart from a few certain historical figures which I will skip over as they were crazy and I don’t think that’s capitalism at it’s finest). But look I’m not a communist nor do I think it is a plausible future social structure at this stage as it requires giving copious amounts of power to one individual. I personally don’t think having a system which encourages greed is good because it waters down to the common person *cough* UK rioters *cough*

            Plus it’s possible to do capitalism better than we are anyway, Canada anybody? Hell even look at Japan during their tsumani, was there any looting or uncontrollable gang violence? No there was a bunch of cooperative strangers working together to take care of each other. Did that happen during Hurricane Katrina in America? No, Gang violence, looting, blah blah. And yes I do attribute it to capitalism because those are the values instilled in the capitalist societies of the west. Although I suppose you saying “Why should a particular company pay for what the government should be?” is perhaps correct. Perhaps capitalism would work better if the government was to be the ones who owned all the big businesses. But then we risk a Totalitarian government if we don’t elect the correct people.

            Is it such a crime that I don’t appreciate the negativity that instills itself within a capitalist country? Excuse me for wanting to be hopeful for the future and not being as cynical as the rest of society.

            • But will it work in a country larger than Victoria ? Just asking I’m no scientist.
              I cannot believe you think Russia did alright out of communism. Forget (like Lee Rhiannon) than they had to butcher millions of their own people in order to enforce it and forget that they had to give it away as they were on the brink of disaster and yeah it’s a great ideology.
              The UK riots were largely due to socialist policy which encouraged generations of welfare dependent hoons to believe that they are owed everything, thus when the opportunity arose to attack and in some cases kill hardworking shopkeepers (the capitalists in the story) in order to score a new pair of trainers because the government doesn’t hand them enough already they took it.

              • Good debate though not trying to be aggressive here of course.
                Oh and the average North Korean 10 year old is a foot shorter than the average South Korean 10 year old. Just saying.

                • You know, I don’t think we can say that caused the riots, because we don’t know. We like in a highly consumerist, materialistic society, and people with uni educations and from wealthy backgrounds were stealing too, so I don’t think we can blame one thing.

                  Besides, many people these days think they are owed everything. Look at all the whining in Australia. I reckon it started with Howard when he bypassed the (Labor) states and offered money directly to people – money to have babies, money to buy your first house. People today really do think that the Government owes them personally, whereas I don’t recall that being the case a decade ago.

              • Whether you agree or disagree about communism or socialism being a better alternative than capitalism aside, the fact remains that Sweden and Russia are doing extremely well. What I admire about Russia is the fact that they have done nationalism right. I mean I think I have to agree with Einstein when he said “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind” because as he also said “Nationalism, in my opinion, is nothing more than an idealistic rationalization for militarism and aggression”. Yet Russia’s form of nationalism has actually unified the people of the country so they are industrious and work well together, unlike say Australia or America in which case it seems to be a justification for racism or excessive drinking on Australia Day and hoon behaviour both in general, on public holidays and overseas. My major gripe about capitalism besides the instilment of greed within society is that it is also a threat to a nation’s middle class without constant policing from the government. Look at China or Brazil for instance, middle class there is practically non-existent because the government’s were only concerned with bringing their nation into the 21st century and getting rich quick. So in the end the common person took a hit, a hit straight into poverty. Already in Australia we are seeing the middle class drift into lower-middle class and upper-middle class and the gap between the groups is getting bigger and bigger.

                As for the Uk riots, don’t put socialist policy on that. England already had many social problems with gang bangers and punk kids. And seeming as no socialist countries have such extreme problems with youth running rampant I just can’t concede that point with out something more.

                Oh and I think I have to agree with Kim about the Howard government being a large cause of average Australian’s greed, but only because when I look back towards the beginning of his leadership I remember people being generally more happy and hopeful, I remember most people knew their neighbours (though I was rather young at the time). By the time Ruddy came in, somewhere along the lines people had gotten mean, pessimistic, rude and cynical on a very large scale, and it is especially a problem with the kids today. As a kid myself I can’t even begin to describe my disgust at my peers attitudes and opinions towards the world in general. And no I don’t think this is a case of puberty and kids growing up. This is a generation of drop-kicks ready to cause problems for everyone. And no I’m not saying it’s everyone who suffers from this problem, I’m just saying that it is on a larger scale than I believe acceptable when so many other countries are seemingly better off.

                • As a pretty well socialist-democrat type myself, I really do think you are wrong about Russia. I AM pro-Union, which doesn’t make me pro-Union-executive.
                  I do entirely agree that the massive increase in middle-class-welfare since the mid-nineties has led to a really bizarre situation in which many people no longer are proud of being able to be entirely self-supporting, and instead are always wanting government handouts.
                  This is odd.
                  My husband and I are happy that he has managed to get a much better job that pays more a couple of weeks ago, despite – *shock* our FTB and childcare rebate going down!
                  Means-testing is a GOOD thing.
                  (Especially as it makes me slightly ill to actually have met otherwise-nice people who spent the entire baby bonus on a diamond ring. Excuse me? If you don’t need it, give it to charity. Or at least some of it.)

      • Kimsonof,
        The main reason that nuclear power is “off the table”, is that is that it’s seen as political suicide. The use of the nuclear option as wedge politics in any alternate energy debate hasn’t helped things much either. Basic questions that need to be answered include,
        (1) how many reactors we would need to build to replace existing coal facilities
        (2) Given nuclear facilities need a constant water supply and we live in a country of “droughts and flooding rains” where would they need to be built
        (3) What would the approximate cost per KW of electricity from these facilities
        All these questions are ignored as “not getting bogged down with specifics”, or glossed over for short term political gain.
        Also, the 2007 “URANIUM MINING, PROCESSING
        AND NUCLEAR ENERGY” report commissioned (and quietly buried) by the Howard government advised that it would take 10-20 years to get to the point of having a working reactor and regulatory environment. Now you can virtually guarantee that there will be a change in state or federal governments over that length of time, meaning that the chances of the project getting “re-evaluated” and quietly buried is almost certain. (As an aside I did chuckle quietly at a paragraph on page 5 of the report)
        “Nuclear power can become competitive
        with fossil fuel-based generation in
        Australia, if based on international
        best practice and with the introduction
        of low to moderate pricing of carbon
        dioxide emissions.”

        In other words, even if we do go nuclear, we still need a carbon tax to make it work..

        Full report may be viewed here:

        Please note, I’m not tying to start an argument here, merely pointing out that until we have a debate based on actual facts rather than a combination of fear & ideology, nuclear power will remain off the table. Possibly it will remain off the table after such a debate, but at least it will be off the table based on facts.

  3. “There are two voices in the story: Greg Combet and Tony Abbott. Greg Combet and Tony Abbott being predictable, predictably disagreeing with each other. Two politicians on opposite sides disagreeing with each other. Woop-di-fucking-do.”

    Sadly, this is what now passes as balanced journalism. No doubt they’d claim “hey, we presented both sides”.

    This practice in journalism – if you can call it journalism – is as balanced as a see-saw that hasn’t started moving yet. It doesn’t examine if one side carries more weight (e.g. is it credible, is it backed by the evidence) than the other.

    • Sadly, from discussions I’ve had and overheard in newsrooms, journos and editors do this think makes a balanced story. When you suggest it isn’t, they look at you like you’ve got a penis growing out of your forehead. Or you’re called “difficult” – and if you’re a woman, that means your career ain’t goin’ anywhere.

  4. Pingback: Nothin’ but self-serving bollocks | the news with nipples

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