Nothin’ but self-serving bollocks

I had a feeling that the readers’ editor at the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun Herald would be little more than a column justifying news decisions, instead of dealing with the criticism posted by readers. Or, shock horror, suggesting at news conferences how stories can be balanced, objective and informative, rather than just re-written media releases or politicians disagreeing with each other. (Journalists suffer from group think. A lot.) And I was right. Did you see this tripe? More than one good reason for Wran story:

At the risk of irritating my new bosses (you) after only 10 days on the job, I beg to differ with your assessments.

Yeah right, as if anyone believes that the readers are the boss here.

Street-corner gossip is malicious; it drifts away from the truth rather than towards it. This story was already out there, in all sorts of contorted forms, in social, political and legal circles. But in two days the Heralds were able to untangle the twists and turns it had taken and give both sides the chance to have their say. Both sides took that opportunity to scotch the gossip.

Really? I didn’t see anything untangled. I saw someone’s personal life splashed across the front page of two newspapers for two days. I saw nothing but gossip.

Prisk offers three weak reasons why the Wran story was put on the front page:

First, Neville Wran is not Uncle Bob down the street. At last count, he sits on the boards of nine companies and has the privilege of a taxpayer-funded office and driver. Of course this does not make him fair game, but he remains a public figure.

Is this story about the boards he sits on? No. Is it anything to do with his taxpayer-funded office and driver? No. Then these two points are irrelevant.

I’d love to see Prisk – or any journo, because fuck, I’ve had this argument many times in the newsroom – explain the difference between being fair game and being a public figure. They don’t know the answer. Fair game is just the term used to justify publishing saucy personal details, whether it’s about a former politician or an underaged pop star.

Second, he is one of our best-known former premiers, a man whose intelligence and acuity fired up generations of Labor supporters, whose wiliness and political nous inspired many of today’s politicians.

That is a biographical statement, not a reason.

Third, dementia in its many forms is a topic that – like suicide – has lost its ”elephant in the room” status.

Wait. What? You’re using the “raising awareness” line to justify publishing gossip? That’s dropping the straws you’re clutching at.

How to deal with the misery of its onset occupies the hearts and minds of millions in Western society, and I think many Herald readers would identify with the spectre of this insidious disease.

Really? Next time you want to use this excuse to publish a story about someone’s personal life, at least include things like the signs of degeneration, where to go for more information, and the care options available. That might make this lie more believable.

Story selection and placement are obvious in most cases but open to argument in others. The Herald decided the photograph of Wran and his daughter was the most appealing picture on the day and a natural candidate for page one, and that the story was valid, with news value and human interest.

Well derrrrr. We already know the Herald thought the story was “valid, with news value and human interest”. The issue here is that most of the readers disagreed with that.

In Prisk’s own words in her first column, the purpose of the readers’ editor is to be “an advocate in the newsroom for our readers”. So I guess the “advocacy” conversation went something like this:

Prisk: Most of our readers thought we were out of line with the Wran story.
Darren Goodsir (news ed): What would they know? They’re just readers. We’re journalists.
Prisk: Yeah, ha ha.
Goodsir: Just write a column saying he’s fair game.
Prisk: Hey, I’ll say we were raising awareness of dementia.
Goodsir: Ha, good one. That’s why we got a journo to be the readers’ editor, not an outsider.
Prisk: Can you believe they actually bought the line that I’m going to be an advocate for them?
Entire newsroom: Bahhahahahahahahahahaha.

12 responses to “Nothin’ but self-serving bollocks

  1. “What would they know? They’re just readers. We’re journalists.”

    That’s amazing, it’s like you have been in newsrooms and heard exactly that line before!

  2. They haven’t even determined if he has the disease yet, so that awareness line is crap.
    Isn’t it interesting that her first outreach to the audience is to tell them they are wrong.

  3. Bravo, nwn!! The “readers’ editor” (ack, can hardly even write that) and that story have been driving me mad!

  4. Fuck the News With Nipples is witty. I mean here I am, just chilling out and nursing last nights drunken injuries when I start pissing myself laughing. I mean why are you not a stand up comedian? I really wish the people who’s articles you tear to pieces in logical, intelligent and humorous ways would read what you have to say. Who knows, maybe they will stop and think to themselves “Jesus, I really am an idiot aren’t I?”

  5. So readers Ed turned out to be a gimmick…never saw that coming 

  6. Pingback: An open letter to Fairfax readers’ editor, Judy Prisk | the news with nipples

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