A common claim by we of the superior intellect and a proper concern for the affairs of the nation is that television news, especially the commercial variety, neglects its duty to educate the masses by pandering to their ignorance.

Car crashes, crime, floods and fires, it often seems, dominate the coverage at the expense of earnest reports from Canberra on matters of real substance as TV news directors simply serve up what the public want to see rather than what they ought to know.

Studying in detail the coverage of this election by all forms of the media for Crikey has thus surprised me. I am finding that TV news devotes far more of its precious minutes to covering politics than people would choose if left to their own devices.

A comparison of last night’s television news coverage and this morning’s list of most read stories on the 10 media internet sites used for the Crikey Election Reality Check illustrates the point.

Only on the websites of the ABC, the Advertiser and The Australian was a political story top of the list. Yet on four of the five television networks federal election stories were what viewers were forced to look at first. Only on the Channel 7 was politics relegated to third – a position more in tune with where it is on the most read lists – and perhaps that explains the network’s ratings successes!

At the sites of the West Australian and the Courier Mail there was no political story in the top five and the entry at news.com.au about Ivan Milat’s sister seeking a Senate seat could perhaps better be described as a comedy story.

In this kind of environment, where people clearly do not have politics at the top of their interest list, it is going to be very hard going for John Howard and his team to pull back the lead which the opinion polls are showing that Labor holds.

Sydney Morning Herald

  1. Daughter pleaded for help, says grandma
  2. Charges brought against brothers for rapes
  3. More jeers for Howard
  4. Lohan’s out and down as Spears turns to Jacko
  5. Bizarre shooting leaves police mystified

The Age

  1. Tram crash injures six
  2. Press club tries to wriggle out of furore
  3. Dead boy’s mother ‘struggled’: family
  4. 15 warnings ignored
  5. Water level alert looms as dams look damned

The Australian

  1. Howard loses edge on economy
  2. Desperate Grandma tried to save…
  3. Rudd coy on poll surge
  4. Garuda captain ignored warnings
  5. Labor further ahead: Newspoll


  • Brown wants Senate ‘worm’ probe
  • Rudd issues debate challenge to Costello
  • Grandmother of boy in suitcase repeatedly warned police
  • Early campaign poll boost for Labor
  • Truck ploughs through cars, 10 hurt

The West Australian

  1. New phone numbers on the drawing board
  2. Axe falls at Freo
  3. Cousins drug charge dropped in court
  4. Hundreds of thousands flee California wildfires
  5. Jackman’s Viva Laughlin cancelled after poor ratings

Sydney Telegraph

  1. The Right Brain vs Left Brain
  2. Voters swearing off silent Howard
  3. Jackman casino series cancelled
  4. Cop dad’s heart turned to ice
  5. Hawko’s getting shirty

Melbourne Herald Sun

  1. Right Brain v Left Brain
  2. Gillard under fire over her past
  3. Osbourne’s X-plosive outburst
  4. Disgraced cop is security boss
  5. Shooting angel needs mercy


  1. Howard’s poll misery
  2. Grandstand showdown
  3. Ex-wife defends sons’ killer
  4. Female US sailors shot dead
  5. Crows won’t chase Chambers

Courier Mail

  1. Georgie lands Ten news gig
  2. Left Brain v Right Brain Test
  3. Motorcyclist dies after hitting emu
  4. Radar to check bridge
  5. Irwins still wake up with Steve


  1. FBI probes magician David…
  2. ‘Please don’t let it be my son’
  3. Army called in as fires head for LA
  4. Milat’s sister wants Senate seat
  5. Female US sailors shot dead

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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