How biased can The West get?

Subscriber email – 9 February (first edition)

An English teacher in Perth writes:

I know I am an old leftie but I have never read such obvious propaganda from any paper as we now get from The West Australian. I am an English teacher and have a fair experience of analysing the media. While it may be true that editor Paul Armstrong attacks Liberal leader Colin Barnett on occasions, it is the relentless, ill-informed and biased attacks on public education that have hit me for six.

It has now got to the stage where the union is calling for teachers to stop propping up such an obviously political operation and stop purchasing the newspaper. (See the latest Western Teacher) Now it doesn’t surprise me that the paper is right wing but I expect my propaganda to have some sophistication. Why would the editor of a newspaper alienate some of its better educated paying customers?

And there are many Liberal voting teachers (there are more of those out here than people think) that I know who no longer subscribe. The increase in circulation is more about raffling cars than providing a news service.

Interestingly, the paper seems to be making a conscious effort to at least appear balanced since Geoff Gallop and Bob Hawke made their comments about it being the most biased paper in the country. And I would agree that the coverage can’t get worse.

Just out of interest, does anyone know what school Paul Armstrong went to? I know he never got to university. I am curious as to the origin of his intense dislike for teachers from the public sector.

More bias at The West

Subscriber email – 9 February (second edition)

Peter Piper the Perth Paper Pulper writes:

Further to that teacher’s comments in item 16 of today’s first edition (How biased can The West get?), I can add some other examples of bias in the last couple of days.

Two days ago, the front page screamed that six out of 10 people support daylight saving (yes, yes, a disgrace that we don’t have it, but it fades the blinds), and the Daylight Savings Party wasn’t registered because of a “bureaucratic bungle.”

I happen to know this isn’t true. A couple of office-bearers of the party, whom I know, have admitted that they registered it too late with the electoral commission to enable the (4 week?) public comment period on the party name to be completed and the party formally registered in time. No mention was made of a mistake by the electoral commission. This should be able to be verified through the electoral commission.

Also, Barnett’s loony approach to the canal has been softened in the last two days by The West. Yesterday, the engineering company involved said they could do it for $2b – hardly an unbiased appraisal of the cost to taxpayers – and today they got a bank to say that they could get the $2b to finance it (complete with a cushy picture of Barnett with the caption “Water tight”).

Meanwhile, yesterday Barnett had an exchange with the journalists that beguiled belief. It went something like this:

Barnett: People should be asking Gallop what the cost of water will be for the desalination plant
Reporter: Well what will the cost of water from the canal be?
Barnett: You’re asking me to look into the future…

Dunno about the exact wording but it was on the ABC radio news bulletins last night. Honestly, how can he be close to being an MP, let alone Premier, acting like this?

The Wild West – bias and credibility problems hit newspapers

Subscriber email – 14 February

Yesterday’s Sunday Times splash on how Colin Barnett’s canal will cost billions more than planned – sending voters’ water bills soaring – was just the boost Geoff Gallop needed midway through the WA election campaign.

Grahame Armstrong’s “exclusive” basically gave voters the impression building a canal on the moon would be cheaper.

Armstrong quotes “a Water Corporation evaluation, completed on Friday and obtained by The Sunday Times” claiming the canal would cost “about $6 billion, not $2 billion as Mr Barnett insists”.

Further, he wrote: “And the Department of Treasury and Finance has concluded that average household water bills would increase by an extra $389 a year.”

So who is Grahame Armstrong, for whom recently minted government documents fall off the water cooler? Would he be the Grahame Armstrong, formerly Geoff Gallop’s press secretary? He would.

No wonder The West Australian, which has become a blatantly biased mouthpiece for the Liberal opposition, got stuck into The Sunday Times in today’s paper.

It is hard to know which of the organs is worse as today’s splash in The West Australian makes it sound like 200,000 homes have been completely left without power.

Colin Barnett should be worried about his crazy canal plans because now even the loops at the Citizens Electoral Council have backed it, but argue that he is not visionary enough and the project should all be done with government money. Read more here.

We recommend the Poll Bludger’s critique of The West’s bias – Canal knowledge.

To find a more politically biased newspaper campaign than what The West is currently turning on, we have to go all the way back to Piers Akerman’s wayward circulation-destroying stint atop the Herald Sun in the early 1990s when he hounded the Kirner government day in and day out. Just the facts would have been enough, but Akerman was distorting issues on a regular basis.

We’re interested in all your feedback on The West’s performance as this is most unusual considering it is a publicly listed company with a wide open share register. The events of the past few weeks will make for a great debate at the next AGM. What would the industry funds that sit on the WA News register make of all this?

Your feedback on bias at The West Australian

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The problem is that everyone in WA has become so used to the bias of the The West that most have developed an “immunity”. Few pay any attention to The West’s current ravings about the election; if there is comment at all, it is about the degree of their bias, not their “news”. Sad state for a newspaper and sadder state for the people of WA who are subject to monopoly in the print media.

A West reader (of the cinema pages)

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Your call for examples of bias got me thinking about The Worst’s power crusade. Everytime the power goes off, even if caused by fires, car accidents, birds, balloons, etc, the state Labor Government gets the front page blame. Gallop get accussed by the paper of “running the ash, arson and humidity line.”

I point you to the Nationals Leader Max Trenorden’s press release of 27 Jan, 2005 (check out nationalswa.com) Max very kindly announced to the public “The Worst power problems hotline”. Only problem was that The Worst weren’t ready for the release, in fact,it took about another week for The Worst to announce it for themselves. The poor woman on 9482 3214 didn’t know anything about power problems for about a week or so.

I think its another example of collusion – along with the AMA/Lib/West cannabis story that got Hawkie riled up.

Thanks Bruce (anon insider)

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The rumour is that a deal between Western Power and The West has gone bad.

Apparently, Western Power were providing outage info exclusively to the paper. In return, the paper was not going to publish its Blackouts Hotline number. But the power people were upset at how the exclusive info was being used to batter them. Last week, they offered the info to all comers, ending their (cynical) exclusive agreement. The West responded with their Blackouts Hotline complete with 1300 number on the front page of the Saturday edition. Front page today is “Thousands again hit by blackouts”.

The best bit in all this though, is The West’s State Political editor Steve Pennells parting words in his comment piece today about TheSunday Time’s canal story.

Steve leaves his reader with this:

“The bottom line to all this propaganda in the midst of an election is West Australians were told yesterday their water bills would “skyrocket”, a claim based on ifs, buts, maybes and plainly fabricated figures,” says Steve.

“The result – highly misleading and politically motivated – was presented to voters as fact.

“Sadly, we have come to expect this from our politicians. But we are entitled to a lot more from those in the media to whom they peddle this kind of stuff. Especially two weeks out from an election.

“As a journalist, it is enough to make me ashamed of my trade.”

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The West couldn’t be any more biased if it was actually written at Menzies House. Steve Pennell’s article in today’s West makes you wonder what planet he lives on. Commenting on the Sunday Time’s canal story he says, “As a journalist it makes me ashamed of my trade”.

Doesn’t he read his own paper? There’s been a lot more in the Worst for a professional journalist to be ashamed of in the last few months than in the Sunday Times (a Murdoch tabloid that could hardly be accused of having a consistent Labor bias).

S.

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The West Australian is NOT biased. What obviously aggravates you is that this paper now actually reports facts and doesn’t try and cover up what’s going on in this State and isn’t frightened to point out the stuff-ups made by the Gallop Government and its Ministers (and boy, have they got plenty of scope). It is interesting that Crikey never accuses The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald of left wing bias. Oh boy, you should really blush about that!

Over the past 12 months the West has been transformed from a parochial boring paper into an interesting and vital news sheet, with much better coverage of world news and a wider variety of journalists.

Incidentally, I’m not employed by the West nor do I have any relatives working there.

Sue of Perth

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Crikey, the West was tolerable while Paul Murray was editor; it’s gone downhill since then but Armstrong has turned it into the worst capital city newspaper I’ve seen.

Have a look at this unconscionable beat-up in last week’s Worst.

The story says “Dozens of sick children at Princess Margaret [Children’s] Hospital may have fallen prey to a group of paedophiles who infiltrated the Subiaco medical centre during the past two years and gained unrestricted access to vulnerable young patients.

Women’s and Children’s Health Services chief executive Glyn Palmer admitted yesterday that four employees had been forced to resign amid allegations of paedophilia and child pornography, and that he had no idea of the number of children who might have been abused.”

The CEO of the Dept of Health responded that day, saying that one person who resigned was suspected of inappropriately dealing with a patient. Police investigated the allegation and didn’t lay charges. Three other resignations were related to inappropriate internet access using hospital computers. One staff member accessed adult porn, another gave his/her password to a couple of patients who accessed adult porn, and the last staff member used chat rooms. No evidence of child porn, and that was confirmed by the Assistant Police Commissioner who was interviewed with the CEO.

How low will the West Australian go? Pretty bl**dy low if this is any indication. An impartial observer might think the editorial staff deliberately went for the scariest slant on the story that they could, ignored facts that didn’t fit and apparently made up stuff where it suited them.

Add this to the way the West misrepresents results from the public school system, and every week has an uninformed rant at the justice system, and you have to wonder: why is the West’s editor hell-bent on destroying faith in public institutions?

Colleen Egan gave a good analysis of the Princess Margaret Hospital beat up in the Sunday Times yesterday, but unfortunately I can’t find it online.

Signed – Stirling Forrest Canning