Pitfalls of playing favourites
A favourite tactic of governments is to drop a story to one of their favourite reporters in a favoured morning newspaper on the premise that the yarn will get a favourable run and will help set the agenda for the day or at least help shape the coverage by other media outlets.
Opposition parties can also play the game if they have a big enough story on their hands.
The reporter and newspaper receiving the drop put in bugger-all effort and are, in reality, agreeing to give free publicity to the provider of the information just for publishing it before others.
Average readers may wonder if the “exclusive” label is appropriate for such stories, given that the reporter may have just acted as a stenographer for the government or opposition.
In this pre-election period the byline of The Courier-Mail’s federal political editor Renee Viellaris has often been accompanied by an “exclusive” tag on stories handed out by the Morrison Government.
This week was no exception with a front-page and page-eight “exclusive” preview of Prime Minister Morrison’s plans to make the bosses of social media companies more accountable for policing the content uploaded to their platforms (pictured). The only problem was its sister paper in Sydney, the Daily Telegraph had been given the same story.
It also gave the item a front page teaser with the full story by state political reporter Anna Caldwell leading the Daily Tele’s federal political coverage on page four.
Has The Courier-Mail lost sight of what “exclusive” means? Or has it become so accustomed to accepting and running favourable government stories that the term now denotes such content.
Just the facts, please
On the subject of the Daily Telegraph, the paper is no stranger to stories that cast the federal Labor Party and its leader Bill Shorten in a less than flattering light.
The Sydney tabloid continues to skew its coverage towards the conservative side of the political field. Well, that’s putting it mildly.
Take for instance the story on page two in Wednesday’s paper on claims by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg that Bill Shorten’s taxation policies would adversely impact “Labor voters” in several Sydney-based federal seats (pictured).
The Treasurer dished out figures for the number of middle-income earners he claimed would be hit by the Shorten policies, with the Tele seemingly ratcheting up the claim by suggesting those affected would be “Labor voters”.
Or was the Treasurer actually fudging the figures to make his claim by equating anyone in a Labor-held seat as a “Labor voter”? Either way it is a dishonest way to present the data.
The anti-Labor tone to the story was given added ooomph with a headline that left readers in no doubt that the claim of suffering “Labor voters” was not a political allegation but an absolute fact.
The business of political coverage
Flip over to page five of yesterday’s Daily Telegraph and you’ll find yet another example of editorialising by headline.
A story on Bill Shorten’s “living wage” proposal started with the assertion that “business leaders” had roundly condemned it (top in picture).
Turns out it was one business group, the Council of Small Business Australia, warning of the policy’s impacts on top of Labor’s announced intention to reverse cuts to penalty rates.
Although the Council’s CEO gave the Labor policy the rounds of the kitchen, no quote from him justified the headline “Living wage the death of small business” which, again, presented allegations as fact.
Even the Tele’s News Corp stablemate, the national tabloid broadsheet The Australian, found a positive in the reaction of the business community (bottom in picture), and it usually never misses a chance to skewer Shorten.