As the Victorian state election looms (November 27 for those playing at home), you’d think the media would have every detail of government policy and process fixed firmly under their microscope.
Not if the coverage of the Brumby Government’s annual reports release is anything to go by. On September 16 the Brumby Government tabled more than 200 annual reports of departments and statutory authorities in just one day. When these reports were made public, about five or six were scrutinised and formed the subject of news reports in mainstream media. More than 190 received no attention.
The Swinburne University of Technology journalism course in conjunction with Crikey teamed up to comb through every single report in an exercise in identifying what the media missed. The result? The Brumby Dump.
A team of Swinburne students over the past month have scrutinised the reports to capture a snapshot of Victoria in the lead-up to the state election.
As the school of journalism heads Margaret Simons, Andrew Dodd and Dennis Muller write in Crikey today:
Because the media operates on a 24-hour news cycle, newsrooms are loath to investigate a report even a day after it has been released. The tragedy of this is that while this is occurring, government and public administration are becoming more complex. Government agencies are also better at spin and managing embarrassing situations, meaning reporters have an even tougher job of finding out things.
Over the next fortnight, Crikey will publish stories researched and written by Swinburne students about contamination, crime, conflict and incompetence, under-resourced welfare agencies and regional hospitals in unsustainable financial positions. There are examples of policy bungles, strained relations and under-performance. There are revelations about the finances of some of our biggest institutions and we see emerging trends across entire sectors that deserve greater exposure and discussion.
The study again highlights the need for adequately resourced and trained reporters, and the sheer volume of information that gets missed when journalists aren’t afforded the time to do what they do best: dig dirt.