The Dream Boat

Recently I’ve been reading more and more of the New York Times Magazine. It’s a quality of journalism that I like to see, and since unsubscribing from the weekend Age, I miss my feature articles and undercover journalism.

Today I was linked to an article about a journalist and his photographer who had spent a lot of time (locked up in a dilapidated apartment near a slum area of Indonesia) and money (paid to smugglers) passing themselves off as political dissidents from Georgia in order to board a plane from Afghanistan to Indonesia and then a boat to Australia. This was just before Tony Abbott was elected. I link it because I think it’s a great piece of journalism and because Australia is shamefully lacking in compassion when it comes to how we treat asylum seekers.


From the Age: Liberal leadership spill coup sparks News Corp ‘civil war’

Appeared on my twitter feed. You can read the article here.

The low-down: News Corp owns The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. Bolt, who writes for the Daily Telegraph claims that The Australian is probably making a loss of $20m a year, which is being subsidised by other News Corp papers such as the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph. The Daily Telegraph has always supported Abbott, and Bolt says that The Australian ‘should be slower to now insist others fall in dutifully and loyally behind Turnbull’.


Mr Mitchell told The Australian in response that the readers of Bolt’s blog were different from The Australian’s core demographic.

“Bolt’s audience includes many conservative retirees whereas The Australian’s readership is younger, rich, better educated and working in legal, political or the business community,” he said. “These people don’t read the Tele or Bolt.”

This makes The Australian’s political leaning even less clear, but I think most papers don’t have a clear political allegiance even though it is generally accepted that Fairfax is more left and News Corp is more right.

The University of the Sunshine Coast conducted a survey of journalists a few years back. It found that most reporters were left-of-centre, whereas senior editors tend to be more right-leaning. It also found:

others have accused News Limited – and particularly its flagship newspaper The Australian – of being overly conservative in its political views.

At first glance, the findings do not support this assumption, with no significant differences in the way journalists from the ABC and News rate their political views on a scale of 0 (left) to 10 (right).

However, 41.2% of the 34 ABC journalists who declared a voting intention said they would vote for the Greens, followed by 32.4% for Labor and 14.7% for the Coalition. In contrast, 46.5% of 86 News Limited journalists who answered this question said they would vote for Labor, 26.7% for the Coalition, and only 19.8% for the Greens…

Among the 86 Fairfax Media journalists who responded, Labor was by far the most popular party at 54.7% support, followed by the Coalition and the Greens, both on 19.8%.

For ease of comparison, that’s:

Greens Labour Liberal Coalition
ABC (n = 34) 41.2% 32.4% 14.7%
News Corp (n = 86) 19.8% 46.5% 26.7%
Fairfax (n = 86) 19.8% 54.7% 19.8%

A gentle criticism of The Australian

I’m trying to be more discerning about my news sources and have been monitoring The Australian for any political bias after two op-eds I read in a row that were very explicitly right-leaning. One strongly advocated for religious screening of asylum seekers, arguing that Islam is fundamentally less tolerant than Christianity. In the words of Bill Shorten from last night’s Q and A – ‘Remember where you came from, intolerance demeans us all’. The other re-imagined Tony Abbott’s failures as consequences of his greatest attribute – loyalty; loyalty to the monarchy, loyalty to Bronwyn Bishop, loyalty to Peta Credlin.

Crikey’s bias-o-meter puts The Australian to the far right, although it clarifies that

The market is too small to support newspapers that don’t play to the centre ground, so the Crikey bias-o-meter has had to be finely calibrated. In a marketplace full of bland centrist publications and carefully mixed stables of commentators, small deviations can look extreme. A cultural warrior here or an aging Whitlamite there can throw the thing way out.

It then went on to give a more detailed review of The Australian’s bias:

Reputably John Howard’s favourite newspaper. He has been profuse in his praise – which should make journalists worth their salt ashamed. You need to worry when the politicians praise you. Redeemed itself with its work on The Australian Wheat Board, which had some Government figures protesting that the paper had a “split personality” or even was “betraying us”. The Oz is also the paper that first ran doubts about the truth of the Government’s line on the children overboard story.

Today The Australian gently highlighted Leigh Sales’ gentle interview with Malcolm Turnbull on 7:30 last night. It talks about the inconsistencies in her interview techniques but doesn’t exactly accuse her of being partial towards certain politicians. Personally, I found her interview with Tony Abbott excessively confrontational and lacking in any substance – mainly due to the fact that he wasn’t given much of a chance to answer any of her questions properly, and when he did, he became too defensive to say anything meaningful because Leigh was always on the attack. Is The Australian criticising Leigh for her gentle handling of the Liberal Party’s new leader? In terms of identifying The Australian’s political bias, this is a bit inconsistent – maybe it doesn’t like Malcolm Turnbull because he’s only a small ‘l’ Liberal or maybe the paper is politically confused; maybe I’m just reading too much into it.