Tag Archives: newspapers

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.

Why I still read newspapers

Every day.

Yep.

Every day.

Yes, they contain yesterday’s news, but don’t kid yourself that news websites in the morning are more current – they are filled with stories the overnight crew took from the next day’s paper, plus some stories from wire services. Each morning, AAP re-writes important stories from the papers and sends them out to both Fairfax and News Ltd, where the online editors pick up the ones the other mob had.

Sure, by mid-morning the news sites will have stuff that happened that morning, but it’ll usually be about accidents and crime. Yawn.

Don’t get me wrong, I think news sites have an amazing set of tools for story telling, but when’s the last time you saw a good online news story? When’s the last time you saw a news website consistently doing interesting things with news stories? Because, in my opinion, putting a cool graphic or interactive map in a story every now and then doesn’t excuse the rest of the mediocre offerings that we have to put up with, day after day.

Anyway, the main reason I still read newspapers is because they’re put together by editors with decades of experience as journalists, and they are structured to lead you through them, to see stories you wouldn’t normally be interested in.

News websites are put together by editors with less than a decade of experience as journalists, who chase the ‘most popular’ list instead of using editorial judgement. You don’t learn anything about ‘us’ as a nation or as a city by looking at a news site. Because, for fuck’s sake, do we really need to know about every car accident and every pedophile arrest?

Can gadgets be green?

I’ve previously blogged about not owning iThings. It’s not that I dislike the company or the technology, but I’m just not a gadget person. Which is why it’s a bit of a surprise to be thinking about getting an e-reader. Probably not an iPad because the name is just too silly for words, but that says more about my sense of humour since I still laugh at Wii.

Call me old-fashioned, but I get the newspaper delivered each morning. News websites take all their copy from the paper and AAP these days, so dead trees are still important. And news websites are so disappointing. They’re completely predictable: sex in the headline (even better if it’s the rape of a teenage girl so the headline can titillate with ‘sex’ and ‘schoolgirl’ even though sexual assault is not sex), a story about how women are shit, a story about a kid getting hurt or killed, something dumb a politician said, check check check check. So much potential, yet they treat audiences like they’re stupid. And you only read the stories you want, whereas I love the process of reading the paper because you get to see everything in it.

The thing that doesn’t sit well with me is the amount of newspaper that ends up in the recycling bin. Yes, some of it goes in the worm farm – and the rubbish we throw out in a week fits into one of those small thin fruit and veg bags, which is pretty good – but still… it’s a lot of paper.

Mind you, I’ll have to wait until they become cheaper – or it comes free with my newspaper subscription – because I bought a money tree but the name is incredibly misleading.

Mark Scott’s falling empires

As a journo I spend a bit of time wondering if my job will exist in two years’ time. Sometimes I’m so over putting together yet another bikini gallery for work that I wish my job would vanish. But other times I have a sense of hope that it will get better.

So I’m reading ABC MD Mark Scott’s speech, delivered last night, on the fall of media empires. It’s a response to Murdoch’s push to charge for content and James Murdoch’s attack on the BBC in August.

But now, the man who just four years ago said he wanted to “make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands of the digital native” says he’s not going to respond to the demands of these digital natives. Instead, they – who have never in their lives paid for news online – will be asked to respond instead to his demands and start paying.

The argument seems to be that people once didn’t pay to watch television but now many do. We fought against timed local calls but now make them every day on our mobiles. Some of us might pay for recorded music we might once have illegally downloaded. And because we want to read and see this great content so badly, now we will pay for that.

My gut feeling is that the empires are going about it the wrong way. Earlier in the year, Nicolas Sarkozy said 18-year-olds could get a free daily newspaper of their choice. Get ’em hooked when they’re young, and get ’em interested in the news. Nine months later, little news babies have been born:

And 65 percent of the young subscribers continue to read Ouest France at least once a week after their free subscriptions end.

Obviously they had to think about content teens would want to read, and balance that with the news desires of their existing audience. But why isn’t this happening here? Rather than lament the decline in newspaper sales and then dumb them down further in a failed effort to appeal to more people, why not be more aggressive? Give teens free papers (no doubt their parents will also read them), pump money into investigations rather than just media release-generated news, and bring back the quality. After all, The Economist is doing really well.

As Mark Scott said: I suspect too much attention is being given to
finding a pay model rather than addressing the content questions in terms of quality and distinctiveness that will really drive audience commitment.

I don’t think bloggers pose a real threat to news organisations. A few really successful bloggers (oh, to dream) may attract some of the news audience, but someone who’s interested in a news-related blog is also going to be interested in the news. And Twitter won’t replace a news organisation because what are users going to link to when they discuss the news in 140 characters?

Besides, newspapers have always been propped up by the classifieds, so now that this has changed, why do we expect them to suddenly earn their keep?

Uncle Rupert, life, the internet and everything

A few days Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corp will be charging for online news within a year. Problem is, who would pay for it?

For starters, it would stuff newspaper sales because people won’t pay for the sameish product twice – unless you got free access when you bought the paper version. And unless all news organisations decide to start charging at the same time, the online audience will just go to a free rival.

The other problem is that Australian newspapers and news sites are filled with copy from Reuters, AFP, AAP, AP and a handful of international papers. Why would anyone pay for copy they can get somewhere else for free?

If people are going to pay for online news, then you have to make it good. Really good. Which means you have to hire more journos – a novel idea – and spend money making them the best bloody journos possible.

In a piece at No Journos No News, Jonathan Este writes “Any news organisation that is thinking straight will be busily building the brand value of its top writers and photographers“.

I don’t see this happening.

Where did feminism get Miranda?

I almost stayed away from it it all day. Almost. But Miranda Devine is up to her usual feminist-bashing, blaming all the evils of the world on feminism.

Apparently it’s feminism’s fault that rugby league players like a gang bang, and the whole Matthew Johns story is about the media’s war on masculinity. Because – as we all know – the media is notoriously run by feminists, what with the long line of male editors at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Age, and The Daily Telegraph.

According to Ms Devine – and she can thank feminism for allowing her to keep her maiden name and be Ms Devine – this feminist-controlled media has been blaming war and domestic violence on rugby league. Riiiiight. And how she goes from the feminist mainstream media hellbent on destroying masculinity to teens having clinical sex, devoid of emotions, is impressive. She writes there’s also chaos in the mating world and feminism is to blame. Take that, feminism! But Miranda, without feminism, would you be writing in the Sydney Morning Herald?