Where has all the news gone?

There’s a tax summit on. It’s not every day – or even every year – that people with expert knowledge and/or self-interest to promote get together and talk about ways to improve our tax system. And it’s quite interesting.

Well, it would be if journalists reported the good stuff. And by good stuff, I don’t mean the one-liners.

Check out today’s page 7 of today’s Sydney Morning Herald. The story about the Turkish army eating fresh food on the battlefield in 1915, and another about a suburb in Turnbull’s electorate that was one of 31 being considered for an NBN test site but missed out and he’s not too bothered about that, are on page 5. Make of that what you will. But there it is, in Big Important Letters, TAX SUUUUMMMMIIIT:

The tax summit - important stuff

Three articles and one picture. Oh, and five pull quotes that don’t tell us a single thing about the ideas being discussed. Like this one from Tony Abbott:

It looks like just another pointless talkfest from an embarrassingly incompetent government.

Really, Abbott? That’s all you’ve got to offer a meeting about changing Australia’s tax system? What a lightweight.

Anyway, the stories:

Three stories on the tax summit in the SMH

Three stories on the Tax Summit in the SMH

At the top of the page we have this from Clancy Yeates: Unions and business clash on best economic strategy:

THE ACTU has challenged business groups to justify calls for further company tax cuts, sparking a row over how to manage the resources boom.

The union body was one of a few parties that openly opposed company tax cuts at yesterday’s tax forum, after business groups said Australia’s 30 per cent company tax rate was high compared with those overseas.

It’s 574 words, mainly “he said, he said” about who is arguing for and against company tax, but it does include a few sentences on some of the other ideas discussed during the day.

Then we have the funny from Jacqueline Maley: Sit up straight and stifle the yawns, you can hear the dandruff falling.

There are jokes about tax professionals sharpening their pencils, Canberrans locking up their daughters, and extra strong coffee and bright lights to stop people falling asleep. I can only assume that by “people” she means political journalists covering a meeting about a subject they know very little about. As a result, their audience won’t learn a single useful thing from their coverage. This is not the journalists’ fault, by the way. Editors, I’m looking straight at you for sending the wrong people to cover the summit. And if you did send your tax journos and business journos and money journos, then put their stories in the main news section where most people will get their news. Because what’s a newspaper for if it’s not to inform your audience about what is happening in their world?

From Maley:

But the Tax Forum 2011 was not the government’s idea. It was imposed on the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, by the independent MP, Rob Oakeshott, as a condition of his support for a Labor government.

And so, as with other parts of Labor’s agenda – notably the carbon tax and its pokie reforms – the poor, dear tax forum was overshadowed by the perception that it was just another thing Julia Gillard was forced to do to retain power.

No, it’s called a minority government, and in minority goverments everyone who formed government gets a say. Why don’t journalists get this very simple idea? Oh, that’s right, because it’s not very good for headlines, one-liners, asking the PM and the Foreign Minister the same question over and over again, and generally pretending that they are political insiders.

Maley’s piece is 453 words.

Then we have a piece by Peter Martin labelled “analysis” in the paper and “analysis” and “opinion” online, but it is quite obviously neither: More revenue, fewer loopholes, is the consensus but what happened to the biffo?.

It’s simply “he said, he said and then this happened” without any analysis. And then there’s this bit:

Australian Industry Group chief executive, Heather Ridout, who sat on the Henry review with Dr Henry, described her “education” during the process when it became clear to her payroll tax – which she had always disliked – fell on consumers and workers rather than her members.

Oh noes, the head of the AIG doesn’t like payroll tax but, thankfully, her members have found a way to punish their employees and consumers for a tax that they are legally required to pay. Saying “we pass it on” is not a good argument for abolishing a tax. (Note: I know nothing about payroll tax, but I know a lot about self-serving bullshit when I see it.)

Martin’s piece is 435 words. That’s less than the funny.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Maley is often a funny writer and there is room for the funny. And I think there is room for analysis and comment on big issues. But this is a NEWSpaper, so where’s the fucking news?

11 responses to “Where has all the news gone?

  1. The news is all gone it was used up last century now we get the repeat news and the try outs for script writers for hilarious ABC comedies.
    Glad the break is out of the way missed the blogs .

  2. I’ve given up expecting news in newspapers. If one asks who benefits from promoting this or that line of reason in a news story one becomes even more cynical. I feel sorry for the journalists who have to push these opinion pieces as news because they can’t afford to offend the Murdochs etc. God even the ABC is now guilty of going soft on the opposition. Maybe they were brainwashed during the ten years of the Howard government. Since Kerry O’Brien semi retired the no one asks the mad monk the difficult questions. It must be Stockholm syndrome.

    • From my experience, most journalists haven’t noticed that what they are writing is no longer balanced reporting. It’s just what news has become and so they all unthinkingly do it. I’d like to pinpoint the moment when political reporting became simply a report of what was said, with no checking of their claims. Then I could shake some people by the shoulders and say “DON’T DO THIS BECAUSE IT LEADS TO A VERY BAD PLACE FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR READERS”. (See how tough I am?)

  3. NWN, did you watch The Hamster Wheel last night? It was like Media Watch with more slagging. They seem to be sticking up for the PM (whether that’s to take a controversial position or because they think it’s the right thing to do, I don’t know). What did you think?

    • Yes, I watched it with Jen. I thought it was a bit hit and miss. Some bits were just silly, but in others they nailed it. Like the stupidity of tv crime reporting. That was gold.

      I don’t think they were sticking up for the PM. I think they were pointing out how stupid most of the coverage about her has become.

  4. Quite right, NWN. They showed how stupid the coverage of most things are in the media.

  5. I know you hate to hear it but Abbott is spot on. The summit won’t even address the mining tax, the carbon tax or any other major reform, so it is relatively pointless.

  6. The incoming editor of the AFR was rubbishing the tax summit like a good little journalistic sheep on the ABC recently, so it was with some surprise that I learnt via our friends at Pure Poison that the AFR published a 20-page spread on it when it finished. The hamster wheel is spinning so fast that such tidbits are easily missed (to say nothing of the disconnect the AFR apparently has).

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