Oz Fail #4

Oz chief political reporter Matthew Franklin tries for a bit of a beat-up with this story about some platitudinous speeches given by Swan and Gillard at the annual conference of the AWU, where, as is customary on such occasions, they said some nice things about their hosts, Bill Ludwig and Paul Howes. Franklin points out, rightly enough, that the AWU supported Gillard in the overthrow of Kevin Rudd. The real problem is with the sub-editor who ran this routine piece of snark with the striking headline “PM, Swan in praise of union ‘saboteurs’ “.

According to the standard, slightly arcane principles that apply here, the use of single quotes around the word “saboteurs” implies that Gillard and Swan actually used the word as a term of praise, with the rest of the headline being a paraphrase. This isn’t quite as crazy as it might sound – the original saboteurs were factory workers who threw their wooden shoes into the machinery as a crude but effective way of protesting against speedup. A historically minded radical might suggest that similar resistance to the work intensification push that began in the 1990s was to be applauded. But of course, Gillard and Swan are never likely to say anything like that, and they didn’t.

The error wouldn’t be so serious if the article quoted someone else calling Ludwig and Howes saboteurs, though it would be more correct to write “PM, Swan ‘in praise of union saboteurs’ “. But in fact there is nothing of the kind, and no hint that anything has been lost in editing. It’s simply that the sub (or maybe the editor) is incorporating his own opinion. If so, it would be more appropriate to run it as a factual description without any quotes. That would entail dropping any pretence of objectivity, but such pretences have worn pretty thin at the Oz.

There are still pockets of good journalism at the Oz. But when even the craft values of subediting are sacrificed to the paper’s political agenda, there isn’t much hope for the future.

16 thoughts on “Oz Fail #4

  1. [There are still pockets of good journalism at the Oz.]

    Anyone care to cite a recent example?

    Rules: (1) “good journalism” is not the same as “less crappy than what usually passes for journalism”,
    (2) “good journalism” does not include comment/opinion,
    (3) in order to qualify as “good journalism”, the example must be factually beyond reproach (ie: true), completely devoid of subjectivity and be of some discernable public interest/information value or benefit.

  2. They’re not a particularly honest looking crew are they?
    Switzer, Mitchell, Salusinsky, Kelly, Albrechtsen, Overington- all hard right cultural warriors.

  3. In the absence of weekend reflections I am Off Topic again. But I just finished the Zombie book and wish to congratulate JQ. On the other hand, I am very glad that I have not wasted the last 3 decades of my life keeping up with the lastest developments in macro and financial economics.
    At one point JQ is quite critical of the post-Keynesians for not providing a way forward. It seems to me that if more clever people had applied themselves, instead of going off on wild goose chases, the post-Keynesian results might have been more impressive by now. Instead they remained a small minority in an ocean of ideological nonsense (one could even call it agnotology!).
    I would also take issue with the ‘academic scribbler’ quote from Keynes. IMHO, it’s not the ideas that are influential, it’s the politics. Politicians and bureaucrats need ideas to justify what they’re going to do in the interests of those to whom they pay attention. Academics provide the scribbled rationale. We will get better economics when and if politicians begin paying attention to people again. This may require an Egypt-style uprising for all I know.

  4. Not necessarily disagreeing with your general issues with the Oz but I think you will find that the quotation marks were to indicate that the saboteurs were not sabotaging the union. I think you are mistaking a grammar issue with being intentionally misleading about a quote.

  5. @Jason
    . The term ‘saboteurs’, if it made any sense at all, referred to the role of the AWU in bringing down Rudd.

    While you could certainly argue that decades of Ludwig rule haven’t been good for the AWU, this point wasn’t raised and wouldn’t in any case be described as sabotaging the union.

  6. The Oz did a good job on exposing the Andrews /Haneef debacle. However their line that unions in general are a terrible thing and the Labor links to unions is terribly tedious. John Howard almost managed to destroy the inks and thereby destroy his opposition. Workchoices was rejected by those who understood that without unions wages would be low while bosses pay would be high. The Australian is on a crusade to restore the spirit of Workchoices.

  7. What we are really just confirming here is that the nOz was once the Oz; what a change a decade (and chief editor) makes!

  8. Can anyone do better than that?

    We have: One part of the paper “used to be good” (how long ago?);

    Overington on AWB (some stories she did in 2005! Wow, not really “recent”. PS Ever looked into the reason Australian wheat exports to Iraq from W.A. suddenly were discovered to contain “iron filings” at about the same time they discovered all that wrongdoing? Where does Iraq get all its wheat from now? The US? No Way!). If I was marking this assignment strictly that would fail on rules (1) and (4) at least;

    Koch: The death was in 2004. Haven’t yet seen any of his writing refer to the facts surrounding the amount of compensation paid to the police officer involved (it was many hundreds of thousands of dollars) compared to the family of the deceased man involved. Probably fails on “recency”, at least;

    “Haneef”?? Have you seen the Gold-Coast Bulletin front page where the Murdoch press fabricated (via photo-shoping) the suggestion that the good doctor and his wife were planning to terrrrize the Q-1 tower (before it was even finished IIRC!!)? Did you notice that there was no police investigation into how the Murdoch press got into his unit while it was still technically a scene of interest to the authorities?

    OK, Hedley Thomas stood still while Steven Keim gave him the irrefutible evidence (previously well known to all the rest of the Murdoch empire anyway) that Haneef was innocent and a victim of some very nasty machinations. Then Thomas took his Walkley and went and worked as Mr PR for the guys doing Gaslands on QLD., isn’t he now back with Murdoch? Anyway, not “recent” really.

    Is that it?

    Let’s just say, “good journalism” in the last month?

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