Journalists certainly love elections. During August polls of one kind or another dominated political reporting throughout the country. There was a poll in the Northern Territory that even enabled the men and women of Canberra to get excited by a surprise result and now a couple of federal by-elections and the state poll in Western Australia. All up there were 118 election stories in the 876 that were listed in our Crikey Breakfast news wrap.That’s more than 13% of the total!

Toss in stories about leadership, which are kind of election stories too, and that’s another 96 stories taking the total proportion to almost 25%! Quite staggering really given that hardly a word in any of all of them meant anything other than the ones giving the final NT result.

Well behind in third place in this little survey of what the political journalists dish up to us came interest rate speculation. Of the 50 stories in this category, only the one yesterday about Wizard home loans actually reducing a rate gave actual news. The rest were of the will they or won’t they category.

Here’s the full list:

  • The ABC — one story giving the opinion of a retired director on how the staff lied to the board.
  • Aborigines — 10 stories in total; one about why a local government council partly paid for the funeral of the brother of Northern Territory Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour; one reporting on the success of the City of Geraldton-Greenough indigenous Employment Policy. The rest just words about plans.
  • Abortion — 11 stories based on the debate in the Victorian Parliament.
  • Alco pops — seven stories on the effectiveness of an excise increase in stopping binge drinking and the political manoeuvring in the Senate. See also the Senate stories.
  • Animal liberation — three stories — fur, stray pets and intensive pig farming.
  • Aviation — six stories on air traffic controller shortage and safety standards administration.
  • Banks — seven stories on bank fees and switching banks; reporting words rather than actions.
  • Bill of rights — one opinion piece.
  • Breast milk shortage — one story blaming the Prime Minister. Real news at last!
  • Censorship — seven stories most about an event rather than just an opinion.
  • Charity — one story about the PM supporting a charity with a Danish royal.
  • Childcare — one story giving one person’s opinion on the evils of child care.
  • Climate change — 42 items in total of which 22 were giving someone or other’s opinion of the problem with the remaining 20 news stories really doing the same thing consisting as they did of reporting what someone said rather than anything anyone actually did.
  • Community Cabinet meeting — one news report.
  • Competition policy — two opinion pieces.
  • Corruption — two stories; one of a public servant potentially facing criminal charges and the other on moves by councils to prevent it.
  • Daylight saving — one news story about SA to start earlier.
  • Defence — two news stories and about inadequate helicopters and one opinion piece. (Note: I think I have a mental block of some kind and do not notice all the defence stories with a political slant.)
  • Development — three news stories, two of them really just words.
  • Drug abuse — one news story.
  • Economy — 36 stories in all; six I classified as describing something that happened; 15 reporting something someone said had happened or would happen; 15 opinion pieces. See also the note on interest rates.
  • Education — 44 stories; 17 were based on the Julia Gillard plans for ranking schools and the truancy provisions of Kevin Rudd; 14 opinion pieces largely on the same subjects with the balance a mixture of federal and state based stories.
  • Elections — 118 stories mainly on the Northern Territory and Western Australian campaigns. Words about promises and words about predictions. 19 in the opinion category.
  • Environment — 16 news stories.
  • Euthanasia — one news story.
  • Family law — one story calling for change.
  • Federalism — one opinion piece.
  • Financial system — three stories, one of them an opinion piece.
  • Freedom of information — one opinion piece.
  • Foreign policy — 21 stories — eight of them opinion pieces.
  • Fuel subsidy — one story on changes to Queensland legislation.
  • Fuel watch — two items — one opinion piece and one news story.
  • Gambling — one news story.
  • Governor General — one opinion piece.
  • Grocery watch — 13 pieces — seven stories and six opinions.
  • Health — 19 items and most of them fair dinkum news stories.
  • Housing market — 10 stories.
  • Human rights — one story about Victorian legislation.
  • Ideas — culture wars: seven opinion pieces.
  • Iguanagate — four stories.
  • Immigration –13 stories, four of them opinion pieces.
  • Industrial relations — 14 stories including five opinion pieces.
  • Industrial development — One story about a NT gas plant.
  • Interest rates — 50 stories of which only the one on Sunday about Wizard actually announcing a rate cut was really news. The others were either opinion pieces quoting experts and others or reporting words said by politicians and about what should happen.
  • Law and order — 25 stories – including five opinion pieces — on law and order in various disguises.
  • Leadership — 96 stories in this category, most of them featuring Peter Costello but an occasional reference to Maurice Iemma and other State leaders.
  • Murray Darling Basin — 24 stories of which four were opinion pieces . Note see also item on water.
  • Music — one story on a political band.
  • National Park: one story.
  • Parental leave — one story.
  • Telephones — one story.
  • Poker Machines — two stories.
  • People — two stories including a long interview with Philip Ruddock.
  • Planning — one story.
  • Political games — 47 stories on assorted bits of political misbehaviour like wasting public money and having an affair with your driver.
  • Political parties — 14 stories about internal machinations of political parties.
  • Polling — five stories based on opinion polls.
  • Privacy laws — nine stories including four opinion pieces.
  • Privatisation — 29 stories, almost all of them based on attempts to sell the electricity businesses in NSW. Only three of them proper news stories, the result speculation and commentary.
  • Public service — 10 stories about bureaucrats and organisation of government.
  • Quarantine — one opinion piece.
  • Senate and the balance of power — 25 stories, all forward looking.
  • Shopping hours — one story.
  • Smoking — three stories.
  • Sport — 18 stories, most based on the need to spend more on our Olympic team to beat the Poms.
  • Superannuation — two stories.
  • Tariffs and protection — 18 stories prompted by the Bracks report on the car industry. All just words.
  • Taxation — 13 stories based on the current review. Once again all just words.
  • Television — one story.
  • Terror — two stories.
  • Transport — 13 stories.
  • Water — 11 stories, most of them about Victoria.
  • Welfare– eight stories.

Peter Fray

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