While the ABC wrestles with the problem of bias, can we hope for a journalistic code of conduct from the Murdoch press?

Increasingly Murdoch papers rely on opinionated spin. Of The Australian’s 510 articles on the topic of terrorism between 11 July and 8 October 2006, 40% of the articles were opinions and editorials and only 1% involved any kind of independent investigation.

The current Australian line is: the nation is naive about the dangers of terrorism and is not willing to face up to the possibility that terrorism is sanctioned by Islamic doctrines. Of the 182 editorials written between July 7-Oct 6, 54 have been devoted to Iraq and terrorism.

Editorials detailing the threat of ter­rorism outweigh the next most important subject by a factor of four. When we add the related subject area of values, the situation becomes even more lop-sided. The editorial theme domi­nates the whole make-up of the newspaper. It is the sheet anchor for opinion, news and politi­cal coverage.

The chief editorialist on the war on terrorism is The Australian’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan. Outweighing the next subject area by a factor of three, of 81 columns between 9 March and 23 September, nearly a quarter were devoted to Iraq and terrorism. Sheridan regularly reproduces the press releases of Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, but there is very little reporting from the front lines, few doc­umented facts, too much unsubstantiated quotation from the powers that be.

In her past 49 columns, Janet Albrechtsen, the great Middle East thinker and expert on terrorism has written eight anti-nanny state/values crisis articles, six pro-Howard, eight anti-Labor, 11 Good News from Iraq/Muscling up to Terrorism pieces and a dozen articles lampooning lib­eral feminism, liberal judiciaries, liberal teachers and historians, etc. Is this what ABC Board member Albrechtsen calls objectivity?

For more see Peter Botsman’s Reading the Murdoch Press.