Partisan election news is coming, but not from the usual suspects

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Take your pick, or you could stick with a reliable source like IA (Images via Pixabay and Wikipedia)

With the election looming, it's important to keep up with the latest news, but the biggest sources aren't necessarily the most reliable, writes Noely Neate.

AS WE ALL KNOW, our interim PM has pretty much been campaigning for an election since he first got the gig back in August 2018. In fact, ScoMo has pretty much essentially shut down Parliament so he can focus on election campaigning – which is a rant all of its own on a later date – and sadly, the usual suspects are, of course, cheering them on. We all know who these usual suspects are.

What is concerning is the amount of political reporting from entities that we really expected better — Fairfax Nine, Channel 10 and ABC. Now, I know many of you will say, “oh such-and-such has always been more conservative…” and, in some cases you may be correct, but in general – bar a few particular employees – these entities have been pretty much balanced.

This week alone showed a massive change. I’ll start with Fairfax Nine, not going into all the pieces they have had that have infuriated me, just the glaringly obvious:

Yep, a big scary front page splash which may as well have screamed “OMG! IT WILL BE THE GREAT DEPRESSION 2.0 IF YOU VOTE FOR LABOR”. 

PM warns Australian economy could tumble into recession Labor, by Bevan Shields (Federal Editor and Canberra Bureau Chief for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) 28 January 2019, was a piece that, when you read about it, was from the talking points about a speech – sorry “major” speech – that PM Morrison was making later in the day.

Reporting on a “major” speech the PM is doing is perfectly legit though, in this little black duck’s opinion. You must wonder about the editor and/or new owners' motives in deciding this has to be the big sensational scary front page splash. Let’s hope this is not the vibe for the rest of the election from this media stable. Sadly, I’m not too hopeful.

Now, let’s look at Channel 10. This I found really disappointing as, traditionally, 10 have not been a major player in the partisan politics games, but...

Yeah, a political drop. With information from the political party themselves, their own so-called research is considered an “exclusive” and worthy of a major report in the nightly news.

That is something that I would expect to be discussed on the Insiders couch, not a major piece on the nightly news where the political news is given limited time. Again, I don’t know if it is because they have new owners or a new political editor, but that as a “news” item is not what I would expect from 10. Moreso from Sky News as a “major news item”, where Peter van Onselen, the new political editor, used to work.

Again, I hope I am wrong, but this could be a case of another one bites the dust and we can expect less actual “political news” over coming months. Let’s just hope that this does not spread to The Project, is all I can say.

Now to the really odd one, which, I have to say, I am still puzzled about.

ABC Breakfast News had a package they played a few times during the morning about the cashless debit card scheme being rolled out in Bundaberg. It was based on this piece by ABC Wide Bay’s Nicole Hegarty, Access to cash restricted from today for thousands on welfare as scheme's success questioned’.

I know many think ABC slant towards the Government and maybe you are right, I tend to think they try to be as balanced as they can, working under onerous conditions, cowered by ever-present funding cut threats and pressure from Government, but in general do an okay job. In fact, what often really annoys me is I think they take balance too far. Often, the “both sides” reporting is just not necessary and, in my opinion, harms public debate giving equal balance to people and issues in society that don’t really deserve it.

Anyhow, knowing ABC do this, I was seriously puzzled by this video package on the cashless welfare rollout. The reporter spoke to QCOSS acting CEO Laura Barnes, who addressed concerns about the welfare card. She also spoke to general manager of Impact Community Services, Steve Beer, who thought the card would be great. Tick, balance from “each side” for the community sector.

The package also included Member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt, who, of course, being a Government MP thinks this is an awesome idea. Then the package also showed Bill Shorten footage saying he would reverse the trial and there was a better way. Again, tick, both sides covered politically.

Then we come to Christian. Bundy resident Christian Mackay, who will be on the card, was given quite a bit of air time in the package to tell us how it will help him save money. Now, Christian seemed like a nice enough young lad, but sounded like he knew Mum was watching what he said, too — but anyhow, good on him.

I then expected the package to show a Centrelink victim (and yes, considering the way they are treated by Centrelink, they are victims) to give their point of view as to how it will make life harder for them, not enough cash for the second-hand books and uniforms for the kids, not enough cash to use at markets or at the op shop — the sort of stuff I have heard on the ground there. But, nothing.

There was no opposing view?

Maybe ABC could not find anyone who would go on camera, as we know Centrelink and the Government can be vindictive. Just Google "Andie Fox Centrelink" and you can see how punitive they can be, so maybe no one wanted to speak out on camera. Which I would suspect was the case, although, as per normal, ABC procedure you would also expect something along the lines of: “We did speak to some who are not happy about the new cashless debit card and worry about it but did not want to be on record or on camera”, or something along those lines at least. But nope, nothing.

This was a massive omission, so the people who saw this package on ABC Breakfast News would be under the impression that no Centrelink recipients on the ground there in Bundy have an issue with it and the only ones who do are those pesky do-gooders.

In these three examples I have used, all have two things in common:

  1. They are strictly accurate reporting, but give a very unfair impression to the general viewer/reader who is not going to get into the nitty-gritty of it, which is a vast majority of the population.
  2. They are not the usual suspects. They are media organisations we tend to think of as more balanced.

This is the worry for me. News Ltd already has a massive chunk of the market, so we really need other segments of the traditional mass media in this nation to be informing us fairly and in a balanced manner.

I hope I am just jumping the gun here and being nervy, and it is not the beginning of a trend for these three organisations, but, just in case, please, everyone keep an eye on this stuff. Call it out. Obviously, support indie media like Independent Australia with a donation or subscription – and I don’t just say that as an IA contributor, I was a supporter long before that – and also other quality independent media — IA can’t do it all on their own.

Subscribe if you can to keep these outlets alive and kicking, share pieces from them online and offline, recommend your favourite indie media to others and not just online but in your own backyard, office, school gate, wherever. Only an informed public can make good voting decisions.

Over to you.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.

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