Tag Archives: smh.com.au

Information? Oh, we don’t put that in the news anymore, silly

I didn’t watch the debate last night. I was at the pub with my derby gang after training, which was a much better way to spend an evening.

So, this morning I thought I’d check the MSM for information about the debate. You know, what Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott said, whether they announced any policies, and how their claims stacked up when they were fact checked.

I wanted some news.

Shush, I can hear your laughter from here.

This is the debate coverage across the top of smh.com.au this morning:

Coverage of last night's debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on smh.com.au.

Coverage of last night’s debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on smh.com.au.

There’s an opinion piece by Peter Hartcher about who won – based on style, rather than substance – and 861 words by Judith Ireland (with AAP) about Kevin Rudd using notes during the debate and whether that makes him a cheater, and a video of the same news story. To put the 861 words about a simple “yes he had notes, no they weren’t allowed” into perspective, this whole post about the coverage on two websites is 476 words.

Hartcher’s piece mentioned that both Rudd and Abbott “ducked the question on building Sydney’s second airport”, so after reading the smh.com.au coverage I know about one question from an hour-long debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Righty-o then.

At dailytelegraph.com.au, there was one story at the top of the website this morning:

How dailytelegraph.com.au started their coverage of the debate.

How dailytelegraph.com.au started their coverage of the debate.

But it was replaced a short time later by this:

MAKE IT BIGGER - the same dailytelegraph.com.au story a short time later.

MAKE IT BIGGER – the same dailytelegraph.com.au story a short time later.

I guess they didn’t want smh.com.au to be the only ones shouting CHEATING CHEATERER.

The story is by Patrick Lion and it’s from the News Limited Network so it’ll be the same story on every website: Election debate: Kevin Rudd accused of cheating after using notes during debate. It’s 496 words about the notes, and not a single mention of any of the topics that were discussed. So, after reading the dailytelegraph.com.au coverage I don’t know anything about the questions in an hour-long debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Don’t get me wrong – the notes story is a story. But it’s not the story because it’s not really important. Having notes at a debate has fuck-all to do with helping people to decide which party’s plan for the future is the one they want to support. Because that’s the whole damn point of the debate.

But the notes story is an easy one to write. It’s a lot easier than reporting what Rudd and Abbott said and doing some research into their policy ideas and fact-checking their claims and finding a clever way to include all of this info in the same story so it’s actually useful to your audience.

PS – If you want to know about the content of the debate, abc.com.au has broken it down question by question, and junkee.com’s Jess O’Callaghan explains the debate with gifs in a piece that contains more info than Fairfax and News Ltd combined.

Warped reporting at Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph


Trigger warning – this post discusses sexual violence.


It’s tough being a woman. We just walk down the street and then, out of nowhere, an assault happens to us. We need to be particularly careful of these disembodied assaults that just hang around until they can happen at someone. At least, that’s the impression I get when journalists report on violence against women: men don’t assault women, it’s just that women have assaults happen to them.

Today’s story is awful. On Sunday morning, a group of men kidnapped a woman and raped her. I can’t imagine how terrified she must have been and how much it must have hurt. I can’t imagine how any victim of a crime like this copes in the weeks, months, and years afterwards. I really hope that this post does not add to her trauma because that is not my intention at all. My intention is to make journalists think about why they report violence against women in a way that almost removes the perpetrator from the crime.

AAP was the first to report the story. On dailytelegraph.com.au they headlined it Sydney woman abducted and gang-raped by group of men, police say. On smh.com.au they headlined it Sydney teen abducted and sexually assaulted by gang. They are both passive sentences – generally frowned upon in journalism. But it becomes more sinister when you consider that passive sentences are usually used to deflect blame, to be vague about who is responsible, or because the person responsible is unimportant.

Four hours after they published the AAP copy, smh.com.au had an updated version (with two bylines and an additional nine words): ‘I don’t think it gets more serious’: woman gang-raped after men ask for directions, police say.

Call me crazy but I think the men did something more serious than ask for directions.

The journalist (Rachel Olding) even includes this sentence at the end:

The victim, who was not affected by alcohol at the time, has been receiving intense counselling and is being supported by her family, Detective Superintendant Kerletec said.

Now, I don’t know if Olding asked the alcohol question, or if another journalist asked it and she reported the answer, or if Kerletec anticipated the question, or if Kerletec believes it’s important, but how is it relevant to a story about other people committing a violent crime? What do journalists think it actually means if she had been drinking? That the crime those men committed is less of a crime? That it’s somehow her fault? That it’s ok for a group of men to assault someone who has been drinking? What? They obviously think it means something important, otherwise they wouldn’t have asked. I’d really like a journalist to let me know why they asked the alcohol question – why they always ask the alcohol question – because I’ve been a journalist and it never occurred to me to ask it.

Here’s the story on smh.com.au:

Standfirst reads: Teen allegedly gang raped after being forced into car by group who asked her for directions.

Standfirst reads: Teen allegedly gang raped after being forced into car by group who asked her for directions.

The men who committed the crime aren’t even mentioned.

Compare that to another crime story below it:

Standfirst reads: Four men attempted a brazen armed robbery near a Sydney shopping centre, witnesses say.

Standfirst reads: Four men attempted a brazen armed robbery near a Sydney shopping centre, witnesses say.

If the robbery story was reported the same way as the assault story, the standfirst would read: “AN Armaguard van was attacked early this morning while parked on a street in Glebe.” It might even include this sentence: “The van, which was not affected by alcohol at the time, had previously been at a bank where it collected a large amount of money.”

But wait, there’s more.

In one story, ‘I don’t think it gets more serious’: woman gang-raped after men ask for directions, police say, the criminals are barely mentioned in the first two sentences:

Police say an alleged gang-rape attack on a teenager in Sydney’s north-west is “as worse as it gets”.

The 18-year-old woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by a car load of five men after leaving a house party in Baulkham Hills on Sunday morning, police said.

In the other, Shot fired at Broadway: gang attempts to rob van, the criminals are the main part of the first two sentences:

Four men have attempted a brazen armed robbery of a cash-in-transit van outside a Sydney inner-city shopping centre, witnesses say.

A witness to the incident said three of the men approached the Armaguard truck armed with firearms outside Broadway Shopping Centre at 8:30am on Monday.

Two crime stories, both involving gangs of men, but reported very differently. Why is that?

Here’s the story on dailytelegraph.com.au:

Standfirst reads: A YOUNG woman has been abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang of men after leaving a house party in Sydney's northwest.

Standfirst reads: A YOUNG woman has been abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang of men after leaving a house party in Sydney’s northwest.

The bit mentioning the gang of men is tucked into the middle of the sentence so you don’t really notice it.

Now, compare it to the story below it on the homepage:

Standfirst reads: TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities in Australia and the UK amid allegations they abused two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.

Standfirst reads: TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities in Australia and the UK amid allegations they abused two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.

The focus of sentence is the alleged criminals, not the victims. Again, the opposite of the way journalists report violence against women.

We get this constant stream of “a woman was abducted on the way home, a woman was sexually assaulted while drunk, a woman was assaulted in her home, a woman had something bad happen to her because she was somewhere late at night” because journalists pretend that assault just hangs out on the street waiting for a woman to walk past so it can happen at her. Assault is not something that’s just part of being a woman, like periods or a squirty bot bot after eating three-day-old takeaway that was a bit iffy. Assault is a crime committed by another person. Yet it’s reported as though that other person doesn’t exist. There are two options here: one, journalists don’t bother to think about the words they use; or two, they want us to believe that men aren’t to blame for the majority of assaults against women. So, journalists are either stupid, or they’re arseholes. I don’t know which is worse.

The smh.com.au story now has video. The caption reads: NSW police are warning women to be cautious on the street after an 18-year-old woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by five men after leaving a house party in Baulkham Hills.

No mention yet about NSW Police warning men not to rape women.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s problem with women

There are two main images on smh.com.au this afternoon that are indicative of the way most online journalists write about women. In one, the woman is ignored. And in the other, something she did a long time ago is used to define her.

This is the first main image on smh.com.au:

Main image on smh.com.au homepage, featuring Emma Stone and Seth Macfarlane

The caption reads:

As she looked on, there were groans – and a few laughs – as Family Guy creator put his stamp on the Oscars

As “she” looked on? Emma Stone has a name and it’s Emma Stone. Oh I know, it can be really difficult because sometimes she has red hair and other times she has blonde hair, but with a little effort, the tertiary-educated journalists at smh.com.au can probably figure out who she is. For example, they could turn to the person next to them and say, “hey, do you know who that is?”.

The story is Seth Macfarlane polarises Oscars audience, by Megan Levy. Here’s the image inside the story (for a crappy autoplay video):

Image of Emma Stone and Seth Macfarlane to illustrate video of Oscars nominations

The caption reads:

MacFarlane in Oscar trouble
Seth MacFarlane, host of the 2013 Oscars, is in hot water with a joke about Hitler at the announcement of the Oscar nominees.

Funny, I could swear there are two people in that image… Yep. I’ve checked a few times and there’s definitely two people there.

Another thing that’s funny is that, sure, Seth Macfarlane is hosting the Oscars and the story is about him making a Hitler joke (ooooh, controversial), but you know, there are two people announcing the nominations so it’s pretty dumb to pretend there’s only one person doing it. Particularly when we can see the other person.

The second main image on smh.com.au is this one:

Smh.com.au story about Indonesia politician Angelina Sondakh

The caption reads:

Downfall of a beauty queen
How Angelina Sandakh went from Sydney to winning Miss Indonesia to becoming a politician to ending up in jail.

The downfall of a pretty woman! A fallen beauty queen! An Australian connection! Exciting!

The story, How Angelina went from Sydney to Miss Indonesia to politics to jail, is by Michael Bachelard:

As former beauty queen and politician Angelina Sondakh awaited her fate in Jakarta’s corruption court this week, her defenders were extolling the intellectual feats of her long-past Australian girlhood.

A former beauty queen! Exciting! Oh wait. We’ve done that bit.

“Angie has many achievements behind her,” said one breathless article in the Harian Terbit newspaper.

A breathless article! Like this one by Michael Bachelard!

The rest of the article mocks the Indonesian media for being excited! By a beauty queen! In trouble! In Indonesia! Because the Australian media never ever does that. Noooooo, not at all.

According to the article (and you have to read a long way down to find it), Angelina Sondakh has been an MP since 2004. That’s almost a decade. But model! Breathless!

Defining Sondakh by a job she did almost 10 years ago is like calling me a checkout chick because I worked at Kmart as an undergrad in the 90s. It’s idiotic. It’s also fairly irrelevant: the story is about politics and corruption, not beauty pageants.

I called this post The Sydney Morning Herald’s problem with women, not because the journalists who work there are misogynists, or because they’re all “ew, women are icky”. Their problem is that they either ignore women altogether (and read Chrys Stevenson’s The Blokeyness Index on the SMH’s massive failure at having women on the front page), or they think that a woman’s appearance trumps everything else does.

In today’s news, more trivial shit

This is the current main image on smh.com.au (2.45pm):

Smh.com.au Sarkozy's shoes

Shoes are An Important Story, dontchaknow.

Yes, an official meeting between Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande –
Sarkozy’s Cuban heels let him see Hollande eye to eye – and the journo writes about his shoes. And gets it wrong – those are not Cuban heels. And then the online editor at smh.com.au decides it’s important enough to be the main image.

You can’t make this shit up.

And over at News.com.au, this is the story the online editor believes is the most important of the afternoon:

News.com.au and the leak

It’s not even a popular tv show.

A tv show that often isn’t in the top 10 most watched of the week is considered more important than the news that the Electoral Commission has cleared Craig Thomson of electoral fraud. That’s right, the result of a show that most people don’t watch is more important than one of the biggest stories of the year. Or perhaps it’s that a positive result for Thomson ruins News Ltd’s anti-Government agenda. (Psst journalists, starting all your news stories with “Tony Abbott says” is not holding the Government to account. It’s letting the Opposition control your news agenda, and the result is you’re not holding anyone in power to account. Also, consider that Baym wrote this in 2005:

“Mainstream journalism’s reliance on predictable conventions can render it susceptible to manipulation by the professional speech writers and media handlers who seed public information with pre-scripted soundbites and spin,” (2005, p. 265).

Politicians know that you’ll lead your story with the dumb quip, and if someone asks any questions of substance, no one will report the answer. They also know that no journalists will fact check their claims, particularly those about the economy. Journalists, you are being used. But I digress.)

News.com.au is also running a BIG story about a finance reporter adjusting her skirt for a split second – stop the fucking presses, right? – and two free plugs for upcoming films.

I’m not suggesting that online news should be worthy and serious all the time. But it’s pretty hard to argue that it’s worthy and serious even some of the time.

One of the things I’m looking at in my doctorate is how young people experience the news. The research indicates that they reject mainstream news because it’s trivial and sensational (eg, McNair, 2000; Buckingham 2000; Raeymakers 2003; Mindich, 2005; Costera Meijer 2007… you get the picture. I won’t post all the refs below – I’ll put them in the comments if anyone wants them). It used to be the case that young people developed an interest in news when they “grew up”, but this is no longer so certain.

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth mentioning again: In the 2004 US presidential election, 21 per cent of 18-34-year-olds got their news from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live – just behind the 23 per cent who got their political information from network news (Feldman, 2007). But, those who watched the comedy shows knew more about election issues than those who got their news from the MSM (National Annenberg Election Survey). If I was still a journalist, I’d be pretty fucking nervous about that.

Baym, G (2005), ‘The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism’, Political Communication, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 259-276.

Costera Meijer, I (2007), ‘The paradox of popularity: How young people experience the news’, Journalism Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 96-116.

Feldman, L (2007), ‘The news about comedy: Young audiences, The Daily Show, and evolving notions of journalism’, Journalism, vol. 8, pp. 406-427.

My feet smell like chicken

Which is what happens when you make chicken stock in your socks. No, I didn’t make it in my socks, I made it not wearing shoes.

Earthquakes are kinda big news at the moment. But check out the smh.com.au homepage (at 4.30pm):

And the dailytelegraph.com.au homepage:

News.com.au wins:

Apparently women hate Keira Knightley

There’s a strange opinion piece on smh.com.au from the Telegraph in London, called Why we hate Keira Knightley. It’s an odd piece, and I’m not sure if it’s because the headline is more forceful than the writing, or because I’m not entirely sure what the writer – Celia Walden – is trying to say.

Somehow from Knightley saying that modern fame isn’t a particularly positive thing, Walden has deduced that she “hints at a desire to be respected for more than being the only woman in the world beautiful enough to look good in a swimming cap”. Riiiiiight.

This, combined with a genteel thespian upbringing, might account for the slight whiff of spoilt-little-girl that emanates from Knightley. But does it explain why mention of her name prompts women of every age to spring forward, enthralled and enraged, to postulate on the size of her pout, bosom and talent? No. That is female jealousy.

Can’t say I’ve experienced this springing forward, but it might have something to do with the fact that she earns millions yet is a pretty ordinary actor.

Female jealousy is a form of lust, the desire to know every inch of a beautiful woman in the same way that a man wants to through sex. But this lust is more powerful than the male kind, and is what has propelled Knightley to her position as a fashion figurehead, role model and Hollywood actress.

Yeah, not buyin’ it. Then later:

Looks like hers survive for many years, but she may only grow as an actress when she stops being so conscious of them. “She makes this stupid face, just like my girlfriend does when she looks in the mirror,” says a male friend.

Therein, perhaps, lies the problem: when Knightley stops seeing the camera as a mirror, we might start seeing her talent.

Is she saying women hate Knightley because they lust after her, or that Knightley is a bad actor because she can’t stop looking at herself in the mirror? I’m confused.

And on top of all that, my zooper dooper just gave me a monster cut on the corner of my mouth. Pineapple, passionfruit and blood is not a good flavour. Why do they make the plastic so sharp?

Let’s just call it a vagina

The SMH is running another article on designer vaginas. I’m sure they ran one in June or July, but you can never have too many stories about female body parts on a news site.

This time it’s an opinion piece by Suzy Freeman-Greene, but the odd thing is that it’s out of context. The was a story on designer vaginas on the ABC website on the 12th, but c’mon, it’s now the 20th:

Aren’t women insecure enough without fretting over their genitalia?

Funny, I didn’t think I was insecure. Am I supposed to fret over my vagina? Fretting over my vagina sounds like a sex move. Is there something wrong with my vagina? Does it not work? How many times do you think I can write vagina in this post?

An ability to dance like a stripper seems depressingly necessary for many of today’s female pop stars, with videos virtually shot from the floor up. This new focus on women’s genitalia is mirrored elsewhere in pop culture, with suburban pole dancing classes and Brazilian waxes that impose a pre-pubescent beauty ideal on adult parts.

Didn’t we have this conversation a few years ago?

Dr Ted Weaver, president of the Royal Australian and NZ College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told Freeman-Greene: “She doesn’t have to conform to a picture that she might have noticed in a girlie magazine”.

Because women never look at porn unless it’s accidental.

Raunch culture has a lot to answer for here. And as the shape of the vagina becomes a crazy new source of angst, we still don’t even have an affectionate word to describe it. Where is the cosy, non-threatening equivalent to ”willy”?

I dunno, why not just call it a vagina? Or vulva, if that’s what you’re referring to.

Update: Freeman-Greene blames Britney’s 3 video clip for making women insecure about their vaginas. The way she described it, I was expecting clit cam and a few damp patches. So I watched it. And I disagree. You’d have to be trying really hard to see the detail Freeman-Greene writes about. The only interesting thing about the clip was that the men were fawning over Britney, rather than the other way ’round. And that’s nice to see.