Crikey



Crikey Bias-o-meter: The newspapers

Thanks to the dominance of News Limited and its gimlet-eyed boyo editors, the print media in Australia skews to the right: old fashioned, blokey, economically libertarian but socially conservative and mostly anti-intellectual.

Meanwhile Fairfax has become more liberal left wing in recent years, or perhaps just more confused, largely because nobody at the top understands how journalists work which leaves them liable to write for themselves and their peers. The truth is there aren’t many out-there radicals in Australian newspaper-land, whether of the left or the right.

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. But here goes:  

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The Australian

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. The present editor, Chris Mitchell has described the paper as “centre right” in its editorial line, but claims it is down the middle in its news coverage. The truth is that Mitchell is mostly a good editor with courage and sound journalistic values, but his credibility is undermined by occasional weird bees in his bonnet. There was the Manning Clark story during his time at The Courier-Mail and most recently the fruit-loopy editorials attacking and distorting the work of Robert Manne and others. The truth is that Rupert’s Australian flagship is a measure of the Murdoch pragmatism. For many years it has been in sympathy with the agenda of federal governments of both colours. Under editor Paul Kelly it helped define Paul Keating’s “big picture”. During the Howard years it has provided both turf and fuel for the culture warriors of the Right.

 

The Australian Financial Review

Different. The AFR costs more, with the highest cover price of any newspaper, and has the wealthiest and best educated audience. To justify and play to all that, it has to provide in depth analysis and real inside knowledge, rather than mere ideological fisticuffs. As a result despite its audience of high wealth individuals it is politically one of the most balanced newspapers in the country. Obviously pro free markets and pro business, but in other political commentary – the closest to the centre on the Australian media scene.

Right/Left: 0

 

The Sydney Morning Herald

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