News value, it seems, can be determined by what you sponsor. The contrasts in the reporting of Saturday night’s Earth Hour between Fairfax (sponsors) and News (not sponsoring) were stark. Could they really have been watching the same event?

The Sunday Age:

A comparison of the Melbourne skyline on Thursday night, and at 8.01 on Saturday night.

The Sunday Herald Sun:

A before and after shot.

It’s a big question, as newspapers sling increasingly large buckets of sponsorship dollars in pursuit of community connection. But can we then trust them to report impartially on the events, bodies, institutions and sporting teams and fixtures to which they financially commit? You would have to say, on the evidence of Earth Hour, that the answer is no.

There was further proof in this past weekend with a major charity fun run sponsored by The Herald Sun attracting rapturous coverage this morning in the Melbourne tabloid, but not a word or picture in The Age, despite the fact that 27,400 took part and the city closed major arterial roads for the morning pant fest. For its part this morning’s Herald Sun all but ignored Earth Hour, again a front page and inside spread presence in The Age.

The issue goes deeper than mere sponsorship of course. Herald Sun editor Bruce Guthrie declined an invitation to take part in the Rudd 2020 summit, while Age editor Andrew Jaspan eagerly sought a ticket and will attend.

Which paper will offer the most objective coverage? That will be a test, and not one we needed to have if our journalists had a clearer concept of their place in an unattached, impartial, non-sponsoring fourth estate.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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