The Australian is rapidly losing credibility as a source of news, writes Peter Botsman. It's not political bias that will sink the national broadsheet, but a tendency to create its own reality through bully tactics.
One hundred years hence let us hope that future historians do not pore through the columns of The Australian to find out what happened in our period of history.
It stands for its own self importance. The problem isn’t that the organisation favours one side of the news over another, it is that it is an insular club which is cold to outside influences. News Limited likes, above all, to be seen as a king maker and power broker. It does not want to report the news — it wants to make the news.
Newspapers should have strong opinions, make choices and offer recommendations. But such views need to be merit-based and emerge from a rich editorial process. At The Australian the conversations that occur between editorial bosses are extremely narrow. You contribute if you are in the News Ltd club. The choices that it makes are not informed by anything of substance but rather a perspective that such and such is someone’s friend, or has the tick of approval by the bosses, or is part of an establishment club view of the world.The club shows no restraint. It will feature a half page picture of a favoured personality or raise a 16-point headline, even when the substance of a story contradicts it, in order to please the perceived hierarchy. Gail Kelly of Westpac found herself at the mercy of the News Limited spin merchants last week. Many have suffered a similar fate over the past few decades. .. Because of its club-like atmosphere, ..
.. like a ship being steered by several captains
Similarly those of us who still occasionally buy The Australian — its circulation figures are closely guarded so that advertising is not jeopardised by a falling readership — do so in order to read one or two columnists. In so far as the overall presentation of the world is concerned, you have to learn to read through the pages. This is difficult for those who have no idea of the internal permutations of personalities and masters within News, or who don’t seek out other sources of world news.
It’s true that since the days when Rupert Murdoch virtually dictated Gough Whitlam’s "It’s time" campaign, News Limited editors have never shied away from being politically active and partisan. But this is not the real concern — what we should be worried about is the propensity for News Limited papers to create their own version of the news. The offensive quality of News is their sheer ability to bully a sort of reality. So much important information is left out.
But still, there is more:
.. Kevin Rudd spoiled his opportunity when he dared to criticise the editor of The Australian for either erroneously quoting him or quoting something off the record about a phone call with George Bush Jr. From that time on Rudd was history so far as The Australian was concerned — even though the former PM enjoys a strong personal friendship with Chris Mitchell, the paper’s editor in chief.The implosion of the Gillard government is also being covered in an imbalanced way by The Australian. Blind Freddy can see that the Gillard Government will not win the next election — whenever it is held. But neither does the Abbott Opposition deserve to win government. ..