Guest post: Stephen Dawson – This isn’t journalism either

The Sydney Morning Herald tells us this morning that polling shows the ALP’s association with unions is hurting it. The second paragraph notes the Liberal’s reaction:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s attempt to gain political mileage from revelations of kickbacks and intimidation in the construction union appears to have the Coalition on fertile ground.

There in four words is a wonderful illustration of much that is wrong with media reporting. This isn’t reporting: it’s opinionating disguised as reporting. Journalists Heath Aston and Bianca Hall report as fact that the PM’s actions and words so far on this matter are an ‘attempt to gain political mileage.’ Presumably they have interviewed him, or heard or read other interviews with him, in which he disclosed his motivation. Otherwise they would have left room for other possible motivations. Such as concern that an important part of the Australian economy is apparently in thrall to criminal intimidation. Indeed, a natural outrage that some might feel about such a situation.

This isn’t a left vs right thing. It’s not a Labor vs Liberal thing. I have no doubt that a thousand examples could be found of former PMs Gillard and Rudd similarly being attributed purely political motives when they may well have been motivated principally by a desire to produce what they thought of as good policy.

It’s to do with too many journalists viewing all words and actions by politicians (and others as well) as purely political in meaning, with no real practical, policy or moral import.

And because such judgements are not tethered in actual facts, they do lend themselves to unconscious bias, reflecting the journalist’s pre-disposition.

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20 Responses to Guest post: Stephen Dawson – This isn’t journalism either

  1. Rabz

    Those Silly Moaning Herald hacktivists sound like strangers to objectivity, not to mention reality.

    Business as usual, really.

    Not much longer, Fauxfacts – and there is no longer a labor/greenfilth collective in power ready to bail you out with taxpayers’ money.

    So you aren’t too big to fail™.

    Time you started to behave like it.

  2. Token

    This isn’t a left vs right thing. It’s not a Labor vs Liberal thing.

    Another reason to object to journalism being a “profession”.

    It is noticeable that when the writer has a broader understanding of the underlying topic, they are able to explore the policy nuances and thereby avoid the need to politically position to have a view.

    Look at all the political press releases which are regurgitated verbatim with an built in political spin.

  3. .

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s attempt to gain political mileage from revelations of kickbacks and intimidation in the construction union appears to have the Coalition on fertile ground.

    Perhaps he has a sense of justice is offended by the idea of someone ripping off a Widows and Orphans fund in the WA goldfields, especially those who employ themselves as advocates to the workers?

  4. Ant

    Time to ‘shoot’ the “messengers”.

  5. james

    Fairfax seems to be a little lacklustre these days.

    I think the hangover from watching Abbott win in a landslide is finally wearing off.

    Expecting some headaches.

  6. rafiki

    All statements about policy direction and matters of moral import (such as judgements about whether someone’s rights have been infringed) must – given the open texture of the principles (if any) which underlie them – be informed by political standpoint. This holds too for the facts on which these statements are tethered, whether it be what facts are found to exist, or the way they are selected in a presentation of them. (The work of Jerome Frank in the 1930s made all this clear to lawyers.)

    The current problem is that journalists, academics, even High Court judges, jump straight to the politics without much concern for reasoning based on principle or an attempt at reasoned fact-finding. “Why bother about all this analysis if in the end it’s political. Let’s cut through to the politics of it”.
    What’s to be done? In law, we need some well-credentialled ‘back-letter’ lawyers in charge, in the law schools in particular. Of course, they should acknowledge that in the end, findings that apply the law to the facts leave much room for judgement, but if they aspire to objectivity in what they teach and what they find the result will be more defensible and enhance respect for the rule of law. For journalists, it’s up to the managers and the bosses to inset on a clear separation – so far as that is feasible – between reporting and analysis of the underlying facts, and on the other hand opinion about the underlying politics.

  7. stackja

    reflecting the journalist’s pre-disposition.

    To the Left.

  8. Empire Strikes Back

    No surprises here.

    As has been noted here before, “journalists” are now prepared for service in the hallowed halls of universities. First year will include a thorough dose of post-modernism. The themes will be maintained through the degree. Rejection of objective inquiry is well ingrained by graduation.

    Post-modernism promotes obscurantism. The bias of the SMH authors is obvious enough, it’s the bias by omission which is most sinister. The ALPBC cartel are experts at this technique.

  9. One side ‘attempts to gain political mileage’ by fighting institutionalised corruption, while the other side ‘can’t get any clear air’ for their whacko policies that strengthen the power of the corrupt.

    It’s propaganda not journalism, will Lord Wentworth pony up our cash so their ALPBC can buy Fauxfax when it eventually goes belly up?

  10. H B Bear

    I have no doubt that a thousand examples could be found of former PMs Gillard and Rudd similarly being attributed purely political motives when they may well have been motivated principally by a desire to produce what they thought of as good policy.

    Like an aboriginal race riot on Australia Day perhaps?

    Guided by McSporran, her perpetually blundering Machiavellian pygmy, Gillard was unable to draw breath without first considering the political consequences. Starting with Big Bill Ludwig and the union demands, for which she owed her entire political existence.

  11. Ellen of Tasmania

    Unfortunately, when politics gets into everything, everything becomes political.

    Socialism is committed to the politicisation of everything, isn’t it?

    Would the SMH writer rather the corruption continue rather than let the PM gain the ‘political mileage’ he thinks (fears) cleaning it up would bring? Wouldn’t it be sadder still if there was no ‘political mileage’ (ie. popular support) to be had in wanting to be rid of corruption and crime?

  12. Notafan

    Journalists’ opinions are no more valid than anyone elses. Faux journalisism has been an issue for many years and no doubt J school is part of the problem. It’s simply dishonest. The left wing agenda determines what is reported.
    The hilarious thing is they all then claim that anyone who disagrees with them is in thrall to right wing bloggers. At least right wing bloggers are honest and make it clear that they are expressing an opinion.

  13. Winston Smith

    …and I am not surprised to see my favourite mega construction company lurking in the background. Perhaps a Securities investigation is in order, Tom?

  14. Makka

    It’s written for brain dead lefties, who over and over seek confirmation that their idiocy be vindicated- and buy this fish wrap.

    Abbott won an election partially due to the the Union corruption inside ALP. Rudd acknowledged this with his lame changes in leader selection/election etc. Numerous Labor senior pollies have agreed (most now left the Parliamentary party) with ALP’s incestuous Union relationships.

    Aston and Hall look like a typical pair of GenY Lefty hipsters. Am I surprised?

  15. cuckoo

    There in four words…attempt to gain political mileage.

    Just to forestall the smartar$es and trolls, you might want to fix that.

  16. Yon Toad

    Correct, it’s not a left vs right thing. It’s a child vs adult thing.

  17. Viva

    The two reporters see this issue primarily in terms of it playing well for the government and not so well for Labor – and are projecting their own perspective on the PM. Sometimes doing the right thing and good politics are in happy alignment.

  18. Luke

    “It’s to do with too many journalists viewing all words and actions by politicians (and others as well) as purely political in meaning, with no real practical, policy or moral import.”

    To be fair to them we did just have 6 years of government that was exactly that. They probably haven’t known any government different since they left uni and started working.

  19. J.H.

    Ellen of Tasmania
    #1176183, posted on February 3, 2014 at 10:58 am
    Unfortunately, when politics gets into everything, everything becomes political.

    Socialism is committed to the politicisation of everything, isn’t it?

    Would the SMH writer rather the corruption continue rather than let the PM gain the ‘political mileage’ he thinks (fears) cleaning it up would bring? Wouldn’t it be sadder still if there was no ‘political mileage’ (ie. popular support) to be had in wanting to be rid of corruption and crime?
    ————————————————————————————————————-

    Spot on and damn well said.

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