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Nov 26, 2010

The 'torture' of writing about climate change at The Oz

A former senior News Limited journalist has described trying to write about human-induced climate change at The Australian newspaper as "torture" and has blamed the editor-in-chief for limiting coverage on the topic because he has "taken a political view".


A former senior News Limited journalist has described trying to write about human-induced climate change at The Australian newspaper as “torture” and has blamed the editor-in-chief for limiting coverage on the topic because he has “taken a political view”.

Asa Wahlquist mounted an off-the-cuff defence of environmental reporting on a panel at yesterday’s journalism educators conference in Sydney, explaining the difficulties of having stories published about climate change because of the attitude of and pressure from senior editors at the paper.

Her comments were quickly reported on Twitter, prompting editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell to threaten legal action against the author of the tweets and anyone else who published the “lie”.

As we go to press, a report in The Australian confirms that Mitchell will sue Julie Posetti for defamation. The paper reports that Posetti could not be reached for comment.

Mitchell told Crikey this morning that “any reading of The Oz’s editorials on climate change would make it clear that for several years the paper has accepted man-made climate change as fact”.

“It has supported market mechanisms to reduce carbon output for the best part of a decade,” he said. “What people do not like is that I publish people such as Bjorn Lomborg. I will continue to do so, but would suggest my environment writer, Graham Lloyd, who is a passionate environmentalist, gets a very good run in the paper.”

Wahlquist, the long-time science and rural affairs writer for The Australian, accused Mitchell of controlling coverage of climate change because he believes those who subscribe to the “eco-fascist line” that humans have induced climate change are “aiming to destroy everything he loves and values”.

Wahlquist has been a respected rural affairs journalist for more than 20 years, formerly working at the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald. She won a Walkley Award and the coveted Peter Hunt Eureka Prize for her coverage of complex scientific stories. She joined The Australian 14 years ago, and joked yesterday she may have been the only person in the building who had a science degree. She resigned two months ago and now works as a freelancer.

Despite her qualifications, Wahlquist says she self-censored stories on the human causes of climate change fearing they would not be run. She described this as “professionally compromising” and “unbearable”.

Wahlquist noted the irony in Rupert Murdoch’s quest to reduce carbon emissions at his various News Limited companies around the world, while the editor-in-chief of one of his flagship newspapers appears to doubt that humans are responsible for global warming.

“The one bit of good news from this is that it shows that News Limited editors are independent,” she said.

Wahlquist told Crikey she was responding yesterday to claims from journalism academics that environmental reporters had failed to cover the issue fairly.

Posetti, a journalism academic at the University of Canberra, tweeted the comments during the conference and Mitchell tells Crikey today he will “vigorously” pursue action against her and “any repeat of the allegations that I have ever done any of the things alleged by the tweeter will meet similar action”. (Wahlquist herself admits some of the reported comments were taken out of context, though others in the forum agreed the comments were ambiguous.)

“My lawyers started work on this yesterday,” Mitchell said. “I am not one who believes new media should be exempt from the normal laws of the land … There is not protection from the law in repeating accurately allegations falsely made.”

Wahlquist told the panel she left The Oz due to the daily grind of news journalism: “When I started at The Australian 14 years ago it was as a features writer, but I wrote two features in the last year. You can’t cover this stuff [complex stories on topics like climate change] in news stories … I couldn’t do it any more, my health gave up. I tried to stay. I saw some value in staying because it was important.”

But, she said: “As a news writer you have no power with the way it is reported. Someone rewrites your copy. This happens more than you know.”

And asked whether alarmist predictions about the effects of global warming had made her job as a reporter at The Australian more difficult, she responded: “It doesn’t help, especially when you have an editor who is inclined to conspiracy theories.”



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53 thoughts on “The ‘torture’ of writing about climate change at The Oz

  1. shepherdmarilyn

    Good for her. The OO has been unbelievable for years now and Asa is an amazing journo. Her book on the true situation of the Murray Darling got little coverage even in the OO and that is a disgrace on it’s own.

    Two very senior journos at the OO told me last year that they could not cover refugee stories honestly because the paper had taken a “position”, even though that position was totally illegal and many editorials seemed to advocate genocide rather than tell the truth that anyone is allowed to come here.

    Even when some of their journalists sid report the truth about refugees we had imprisoned in Indonesia they were howled down by vicious editorials by the faceless, nameless and gutless editorial writers.

    To say it has been appalling is to understate it somewhat.

    And their war on the NBN has been pure self interest yet even today they cannot just give it up.

    It will be built.

  2. rubiginosa

    We need to increase the immigration rate, lest Chris Mitchell and The Australian run out of individuals to attack, sue, and intimidate.

  3. Ben Carew

    the claim that the Oz has accepted climate change as being man made for the better part of a decade is pure garbage. I remember reading an editorial in 2006 that left me gobsmacked and in no doubt that they didn’t accept it at all.
    Cowtowing to your readers is apparently just good business, even if journalism is supposed to be getting to the truth.

  4. Scarpat

    It amuses me that anyone at News Ltd could sue for defmation with a straight face. The journalistic ethics of News Ltd are exemplified by the News of the World and the Herald-Sun, their business ethics by Storm Ltd.

  5. klewso

    It’s funny how Murdoch can profess some “interest” in “man’s role in climate change”, while the actions of his editors, in his pay, and probably “privy”, seem to reflect something else?


    A newspaper editor has been ‘misrepresented’ and wants to sue? Especially as it’s the Oz.

    That’s too funny to make up!

  7. 6minutes

    Chris Mitchell threatened by bloggers so he outs them, now getting legal with tweeters. He’s like a one man Chinese government.

  8. Cuppa

    It’s just a matter of time before disgruntled staff lift the lid on the pressures brought to bear at the ABC to toe the Liberal Party/News Ltd/Board of Directors line.

    Come on, step right up, don’t be shy!

  9. Jackol

    I really really really hope that Mitchell’s legal action blows up in his face, both in terms of publicly enumerating his paper’s ‘record’ (oh what a list that would make if someone spent the time to compile it) and ultimately blowing a lot of money – I can’t imagine that would make Uncle Roop happy.

  10. Mr Squid

    The Right to Know campaign? The right to free speech? The right to fair comment? The right to speak about matters of public interest?

    Only if you agree with what the the neo-facist totalitarians at Newscrap vomit out every minute of every day.

  11. bill2009

    Jackol – Tim Lambert has been documenting The Australian war on science for a while now he is up to 50. http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/the_war_on_science/

  12. Dawn Baker

    I read The Oz App on my iPad, and am horrified by their position. Much of it is done by giving equal voice to the skeptics. Recent book, ‘Merchants of Doubt’ explained and exposed the same tactics that were followed by casting doubt on the relationship between smoking and various diseases.

  13. whateverpedia

    For a look at the pressures placed on journalists at Murdoch’s FoxNews (FauxNews is more accurate) watch this documenatry:

    Outfoxed: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6737097743434902428&hl=en&emb=1#

    I can’t imagine it being any different at any Limited News outlet.

  14. Syd Walker

    Christorpher Dunne’s is retweetable.

    Wot ‘e said!

  15. klewso

    “Inky” – what’s this “Right to Know campaign”? It’s their “(your) Need to Know” policy.

  16. Tom McLoughlin

    What is going on? Senator Milne yesterday revealed Science Minister Kim Carr was cutting 10% of biology scientists in the CSIRO – during the mining boom no.2?

    When indeed is a good time to hire scientists for public interest science? Or are the funds being redirected to the Australian version of Last Chance to See – as some kind of political joke?

  17. shepherdmarilyn

    Ah but Mr Squid, the right to know means the right for us to know what Murdoch wants us to know. Anyone notice how quiet John Hartigan is these days?

  18. Sean

    @Ben Carew, can you bring the article back, it might be needed for the defence…

    Careful @scarpat, they’ll come after you next — oh wait, they can’t pursue an anonymous online comment without a lot of ISP subpoenas…

  19. freecountry

    For someone like me whom many would consider a bit to the right of Attila the Hun, I have to say I get just as nauseous to see my own opinions echoed in the Australian, as when I see the pig-ignorant self-righteousness in the left wing press.

    I might agree with the Australian’s editorial line about two thirds of the time, but I have no taste for being told what to think. I can get that down at the pub any time I want.

    Just as often, I want to know what the other half are thinking. Sometimes the other side or right, or sometimes I want to see where they’ve gone wrong. And I can’t tell really tell the difference without a reliable survey of the salient information and main points of view.

    I used to be able to read through a story with the main latest developments at the top, a short summary of the issue to date for those who’ve come late, and some more in-depth probing of details and opinions further down. In traditional journalism this used to be called the “inverted pyramid” structure. The choice of which facts were most salient often had a slightly political element to it, so one paper’s summary might differ slightly from another’s. But you could read the news pages of either paper in the time it took to drink a coffee, and be informed enough to draw your own opinions.

    Now, to have a clue what’s going on, I have to wade through at least two newspapers, picking bits of information out of the diatribes. It’s exhausting, I don’t really have time for it, and I now miss a lot of information that once I would have picked up. I often come to the same conclusion that the Australian’s writers do, no thanks to the torrent of their opinions which I could have done without.

    Typical Crikey readers carry on like a get-together of the Bob Brown and Julia Gillard fan clubs, and many of them even consider Julia Gillard and the ABC to be extreme right, so they would have always said the same thing about the Australian no matter what it did.

    But I remember just ten years ago the Australian was the best newspaper in Australia and among the best in the English speaking world. It could hold its own in company like the Independent, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. How far it has fallen, when it became no more than a political pamphlet.

    The decline from this height down to the grubby lobbyist pamphlet it has become, started roughly about the time Chris Mitchell became chief editor in 2003. He has all but destroyed the best brand in the country. It may even be too late to sack him, because once the trust in a masthead is gone, it’s a long uphill climb to win it back.

  20. John Bennetts

    Australians need a Bill of Rights and the right to free speech. Now. Neither major political party agrees that this change is needed.

  21. Bela

    Its amazing how blind they (the Oz) are to their own bias. I wouldn’t mind if they would just own up to it, as at least they would be treating their readers as if they had some intelligence, but to pretend they are impartial is just ludicrous.

    Yesterday for example, they had managed to find a couple who were disgruntled by the broadband rollout in Tasmania, just to support their continual attacks on the government. They probably found the only people in Tasmania who wanted to have a whinge but presented them as representative of opinion on the issue.

    This is typical out-of-context editorialising in place of news. Unfortunately for them, the Abbott opposition is even more incompetent and economically illiterate than the government, so it places Mitchell in a difficult position when he tries to run his agenda.

    Apart from a few remaining decent columinsts they are becoming an irrelevant joke.

  22. Fran Barlow

    And on similar ground, “Attila” aka FreeCountry I long ago stopped bothering to read Green Left Weekly because as well-intended as it is, it rarely has anything that you can pore over and analyse using the data they have supplied.

    Good intentions are all very well. Most of the time I am going to think they are in the right ballbark. Yet it adds almost nothing to what I know of the world.

    I wouldn’t even mind if the OO set aside so many pages for highly opinionated tabloid posturing and infotainment if they would leave aside a section of the paper for analytic journalism where people with the intellectual skills to analyse policy made it their business to do so in careful detail. That would be worth reading, regardless of what the analyst thought.

  23. Norman Hanscombe

    The True Believers on both sides of this ‘debate’ are equally oblivious to whatever might threaten their respective ‘noble’ stances. On one side there are the climate sceptics. True Believers who have no interest in understanding that the industrial revolution’s replacement of renewable organic resources with non-renewable inorganic resources had begun to return massive quantities of gases to our atmosphere — gases which inevitably would move Earth’s climatic conditions back towards the very different world it once was. Because of their emotive attachment to their cause, they’re prone to accepting unquestionably any alleged ‘evidence’ they can find, as a justification for not facing up to unpleasant realities.

    On the other side, Holy Grail True Believers in the climate change cause can blindly applaud a movie which might better have been called, “A Convenient Half-Truth”. A movie which relies on disingenuous statistical manipulations using conveniently chosen dates to hide such things as the climate pattern prior to the Mini Ice Age event from which the movie’s ‘argument ‘ is developed. Figures and photo shots race on and off the screen in a manner which prevents most of the audience from analysing what the movie purports to be showing. Not, of course, that this matters for most viewers. Some ‘know’ the movie is Gospel Truth, so they have no need to analyse it closely. Others ‘know’ it’s the work of a Latter Day Satan, so they don’t need to analyse it closely either.
    It’s not every day you see a movie which can confirm the prejudices of two warring factions. Is it any wonder it won an Oscar, even if it wasn’t in the Science Fiction Category? On the other hand, there is a certain irony in the fact that the movie’s initiator being an ex- politician who did nothing while he was a politician, but became such a champion of this important political cause only AFTER he was defeated, was no longer an elected politician with any political responsibilities, who apparently still craved something which would enable him to once again prance and dance across the public stage.

    An underlying problem NO significant political/social/ethical/whatever group currently mentions, however, is the problems future generations will face as resources begin their inevitable serious declines. I’ not keen on the cliché about the elephant in the room, but perhaps it might be useful to accept there’s a herd of declining resource elephants in the planet’s attic, about which no one might want to talk; and wouldn’t it be better to start talking now, rather than waiting till the ceiling gives way?

  24. Mr Squid

    Fran, to be able to make a well-informed judgment, you need a journal of record to publish as much factual information as possible, and in an even-handed way. You do not need any more “analytical” journalism, which to me is a euphemism for the rubbish you get from the likes of Mitchell and his ilk.

    His court case is about censoring alternative views to those held by himself and preventing the public from obtaining a full range of information on important issues of the day.

    His action is the antithesis of the his grotty Right to Know campaign (joined, to its eternal shame, by the ABC), free speech, and it is designed to inhibit fully informed public discourse.

    His action typifies everything that newscrap stands for.

    It is typical of

  25. freecountry


    The “factual information” school of journalism is what James Carey describes as “I was there, you weren’t, let me tell you what happened.” Increasingly, someone else was there first and that person is on Twitter. It’s still useful in specialized areas like foreign bureaux, hazardous war reporting, or the amazing undercover research of Antonio Salas.

    But for bread and butter news, it’s not enough just to report who, what, where, and when. In fact, it never has been. It’s not enough to get the facts right; you’ve got to get the right facts. Otherwise the story could be accurate–nobody misquoted, nothing invented–but still fail what lawyers call the “fairly and generally true” test.

    There’s no shortcut for this. The remedy for having omitted to report some readily available detail that changes the whole story is not simply to “try harder”. The remedy is for journalists to place the paramount priority on their masthead’s reputation for reliability, taking precedence over guiding the public in whatever they consider the right direction. Ideally journalists would have time to proofread each other’s stories, just as lawyers proofread each others’ briefings to make sure they have covered all the need-to-knows.

    We also need analysis. Analysis does not mean “here’s what I think of this”. Describing Ken Henry as a lefty or Ross Garnaut as a greenie is not meaningful analysis. Why does Ken Henry think the mining boom without a super profits tax is harming Australia, and why does Henry Ergas disagree, does anybody really know? (Don’t say “two speed economy,” that’s just a catch-phrase.) The designers of Australia’s worlds-best public education, more than a century ago, anticipated and catered for problems like whether to use phonics or not in literacy teaching. Does anybody know what it was?

    How could you know, if nobody tells you? And yet these are raging controversies right now, on which we are voting governments in and out. Who’s going to get to the bottom and explain these things, if the newspapers are too busy telling us who’s a lefty, who’s a f@scist, who’s got a death-stare, who’s been accused of pinching someone’s bottom, and why I want you to vote (insert party here) in the election? It’s all sh*t.

  26. Mr Squid

    Unfortunately I suspect you are 100% right. However I do believe there is room for the “factual” school. At its most simple: legislation tabled today – link to Bill.

  27. fractious

    @ Freecountry:
    How could you know, if nobody tells you? And yet these are raging controversies right now, on which we are voting governments in and out. Who’s going to get to the bottom and explain these things, if the newspapers are too busy telling us who’s a lefty, who’s a f@scist, who’s got a death-stare, who’s been accused of pinching someone’s bottom, and why I want you to vote (insert party here) in the election? It’s all sh*t.

    I can’t say I agree with your personal political views, and I won’t say I even read much of the OO, let alone agree with it. But whatever, that para hits the nail squarely on the head. I’m equally as ropable with what passes for in-depth mainstream journalism in this country (and come to that, the UK and the US) these days, and it makes not a jot of difference whether the source is the OO, their ABC, Fairf*x or 10/ 9/ 7.

    I don’t need or want to be told what to think any more. I do want to have to ponder, to mull over, to cogitate, to examine.

  28. Socratease

    Wahlquist herself admits some of the reported comments were taken out of context, though others in the forum agreed the comments were ambiguous.

    So what exactly did she say?

  29. A commenter

    Having been sacked from a contract position on a regional daily due to 2 comments in a group on FB (and no I was not a journo)I can in some ways relate to Julie.
    I will have to embrace @Factious’ word … “I don’t need or want to be told what to think any more. I do want to have to ponder, to mull over, to cogitate, to examine. ”

    Those words speak volumes Journos are not supposed to be puppets to the editors bent… they are supposed to report the news, sadly this is what is appearing. If anything I think the editor has to lower his (easy to be written editorial) shield he has to be open to knew opinions. To do otherwise is to equate yourself to a communist leader, that is if you want to “dictate ” what is reported. Hey you don’t need to sit on sub-editors arses to make sure it is your word that is spoken.

    Just as politics is shaken up by a vote I think the media needs a shake up around elections to get in new blood. After all you media types really want to straddle the media and not be caught regimentally on one side of the tape (if you don’t your parent companies do). I do agree in essence with the majority of posts above, but I do not agree to be quoted in any other media.

  30. darkcyn

    anyone care to explain to me why teachers are reprimanded and have their pays docked when they fail or keep back students
    makes no sense right ?
    makes perfect sense to me,
    they want to keep you as complacent and as blind as possible, my step mother was a teacher for almost 30 years
    @Mr Squid australia has never had the right of free speech it was just an assumed law and only since 9/11 has it come under attack from our gov’t
    good ole’ rupert just wants his sheep

  31. wordfactory

    The fact that commenters are leaving out of their arguments about the Australian media is that profit-hungry newspaper managements in the past 15 years have decimated their editorial staffs to put more of those outlays onto the bottom line. Media companies are among Australia’s most profitable with operating margins in the 25-35% range, putting them just behind the Big Four banks (45-55%).With fewer journalists to fill the same amount of space, more space is being devoted to opinion, which is a worthless currency for the few remaining journalists who understand the footslogging required to turn up valuable new information, which is now virtually absent from Australian newspapers (and radio and TV news services which, as they always were, are parasites republishing information that originally appeared in newspapers). The amount of original material appearing in Australian newspapers in 2010 is next to zero, unlike the Fleet Street papers and that last American bastion of original journalism, the New York Times. And Australian newspapers managements wonder why their circulations are plummeting to oblivion.

  32. Sausage Maker

    Its no coincidence that countries that have a high presence of News Corp media also have a higher rate of opposition to the idea that climate change either exists or is man made.

  33. Smithee

    The editor doth protest too much, methinks.

  34. Christine Johnson

    If Chris Mitchell thinks his reputation is sullied why not demand a retraction and apology. If Walquist meant one of the other many editors she seems to have had, then Asa clarifies to whom she was referring. And if its about knocking out perceived opposition you’d think newspaper heavies realised the Jericho case firmly established the DNAs of twitter, social and print media are vastly different. Sending Jericho and Posetti to personal pergatory is Gestapo tactics in Socialmedialand. And we know how that episode of history ended.

  35. Norman Hanscombe

    It’s possible my friends who had to deal with the Gestapo exaggerated, Christine; but they did lead me to believe the Gestapo’s tactics were somewhat harsher than anything dealt out by even the toughest Australian Editors?

  36. Christine Johnson

    Norman – you’re in for a debate as usual. Because I don’t want these comments to go off topic I’ll try to put a sock in it for you. Will Gestapo-style suffice….controlling, policing etc? You know people borrow figures of speech and take poetic licence and because you commandeered nearly half a page to make your point I chose to to express myself more succinctly. I had hoped it would be without the presence of some kind of trumped-up editorial watchdog. Of all the wonderful editors I had throughout my career I doubt any would have done a Chris Mitchell or Norman Hanscombe – stymied colourful communication.

  37. David Sanderson

    The Australian accepts the reality of climate change just as much as Fox News does.

    In their own quiet ways both news organisations have been begging their governments to take urgent and meaningful action against climate change scientists, who they have discovered to be the cause of the problem.

  38. Norman Hanscombe

    Christine Johnson, since all but one of my friends who had the relevant experience to assess whether “Gestapo-style” is an appropriate level of ”poetic Licence” (and I prefer not to rake over the unpleasant memories she has from that era) I can only say it still strikes me as possibly being a non-helpful comparison.

    I don’t object to colourful language, per se. There can, however, be a case for arguing that ‘colours’ sometimes an author’s assertions would have been better served, had the emotively charged ‘colours’ been thought about more carefully — no matter how strong our emotive needs happen to be? I hope this suggestion isn’t seen as just another ‘distraction’.

  39. achimova1

    “What people do not like is that I publish people such as Bjorn Lomborg. I will continue to do so, but would suggest my environment writer, Graham Lloyd, who is a passionate environmentalist, gets a very good run in the paper.”
    If Mr Lloyd’s article on carbon sequestration is anything to go by, I would say he may be passionate, but he is not fully informed. Does anyone but the mining companies believe that sequestration is the way to go?

    And I agree with FREECOUNTRY – we need analysis, not rhetoric. George Megalogenis is the only writer for the Oz who is always worth reading because he can write a interesting piece and explain why he has his opinion. (Geordie Williamson is pretty good too but that’s the Yarts,) Lloyd’s sequestration article assumes that fossil fuel will continue to be used and that sequestration will solve the problem of greenhouse gases. Where’s his argument?

  40. Mr Squid

    Lloyd is simply a cipher for Mitchell. He doesn’t need to be told what to write. that goes for almost all the glove puppets.

  41. John Marlowe

    Yeah, it’s Rupert Ltd, that’s old news!

  42. AR

    Attila F/C – your contention that the OO, 10 yrs ago when it was the GG, was the “best newsaper” is only true by default.
    The sad deline of Fairfax, from the days of the insane buyout by wacky Cuz Warwick, (always doomed to fail purely on the numbers – some sort of penance to his amerikan Xtian nutter conclave?) left the field wide open.
    Many tried to fill it, Matilda, Crikey, but hoi polloi want the facts – footy scores and how’s screwing whom – which mind set was best identfied by Frazer in 1975 when he, unfortunately correctly, opined that Ozzies wanted to return to the daze when they turned to the back of the paper first.
    HOWEVER (plz excuse shouting) your snide little insertion, in a slab of boiler plate It’s not enough to get the facts right; you’ve got to get the right facts.the best begs the question “by whose definition?”
    The answer is obvious, same as who writes history, the victors/rulers. Or the, for the moment cashed up, wannabes.

  43. freecountry

    AR, that “snide little insertion” of mine was the centrepiece of my argument. It’s related to the idea of a “newpaper of record,” and it’s the reason Crikey and Matilda never had a shot at the title; you may have found them balanced but they have never been more than supplements.

    A really professional masthead would be to news what Encyclopaedia Britannica is to general knowledge. Not just a brain dump of what each columnist wants you to think, but a tightly coordinated overview of the most salient events of the day–and this should change little, whatever your political flavour–together with a more detailed examination of certain topics. The latter unavoidably has an element of political subjectivity to it, but this can be liberalized by allowing a mixture of different journalists to do the in-depth pieces and sometimes to disagree with each other.

  44. AR

    AttilaFC – and you (claim to) believe that the OO, nee GG, is within cooee of your 2nd para?
    Have you sought treatment?

  45. freecountry

    Read again what I said, AR. People get annoyed if I keep repeating myself.

  46. AR

    Perhaps “people” are annoyed because you are a rabble soothing troll.

  47. Holden Back

    I’m scratching to find a Zola quote regarding the situation which Free Country regards as the ideal: a paper of record which deals in reporting facts. Never quite the golden age there when you need it.

    Zola characterises the yellow press of his day as always lying, and the Times of London as being scrupulous in small matters of fact, so as to be able to achieve more important deceptions.

    Anyone help me out with the exact quote?

  48. freecountry

    Holden, all I could find was Zola making sarcastic “newspaper-of-record” comments about the New York Times and its criticisms of Israel.

    In any case, if such comment was made about The Times, as an editor you’d have to be pretty happy with that. If even your harshest critics acknowledged your reliability enough to try to turn it into a conspiracy theory, you could show that to your bosses and say, “Now about that bonus …”

  49. Venise Alstergren

    “”Mitchell told Crikey this morning that “any reading of The OO’s editorials on climate change would make it clear that for several years the paper has accepted man-made climate change as fact”.””

    ¿Run that past me again Mr Mitchell? I’m so sorry, I thought you just said that OO’s editorials-and by implication, the OO itself have accepted man-made cli….. My God! You did say it.

    It would seem passing strange that a publication which has become a by-word for the denial of man-made climate change is now denying its denial. However, who am I to argue with the editor of such a proud, unique, courageous, unbiased, and factual broadsheet?

  50. Norman Hanscombe

    Not being one of the paper’s devoted readers or [more importantly] having carried out an adequate survey of the relevant material, Isuspect that I’m in a similar position to many of the emotive critics posting ‘definitive’ conclusions.

    I can’t help feeling, however, that it woudn’t hurt if ALL sides in this emotionally super-charged non-debate could manage to go about analysing their own emotively-defended prejudices a tad less confidently. Now that is optimism.

  51. Holden Back

    Free Country – if you had to, you’d take some pride in that criticism. I’d guess that Zola may have a point – which is still valid for very few papers – that a partial acount with plausible and verifiable details is far more persuasive than the outrageous tissues of lies we see paraded before us today.

  52. freecountry

    Holden – Yes, I agree. Blatant one-sided propaganda not only fails to inform, it even fails to influence opinion if it loses all semblance of objectivity. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t really want to be told just what they want to be told.

    Case in point: Chris Mitchell’s Australian tried very hard–not only in its editorials but in its news coverage–to get the federal Coalition elected this year. But in the lead-up to the poll, the paper was preaching to the converted. The only voters still reading the Australian by then were those who would sooner emigrate to North Korea than vote for Labor or Greens, and a few journalists and other people like me who read more than one newspaper.

    But the Australian had gone further than that, interfering with the Coalition leadership through 2009 in collaboration with party powerbrokers such as Senator Minchin. The direct result of this interference was a compromise party leader whose personal approval rating always lagged far behind that of his party, and who was the only reason the Coalition lost the election. Conclusion: if propaganda is too blatant it not only as fails as news but as fails as propaganda.

    As for the New York Times … in his book “From Beirut to Jerusalem” Thomas Friedman discussed the controversy of sending a J*wish reporter to cover Middle East affairs. It had not been done before and was generally considered to be asking for trouble. I think, as some editors feared, Friedman and his colleagues have tended to overcorrect against any suspicion of pro-Isr@eli bias and become a bit one-sided in their criticisms. But I also think readers–New Yorkers in particular–are aware of this and can easily distinguish between its position on its pet topic and its careful balance on everything else. Any New Yorkers really interested in the Middle East should be reading the Jerusalem Post anyway.

  53. Holden Back

    Free Country, I’m not so sure about Friedman’s over-correction. I think in the NYT context a J*wish reporter is actually freer to report impartially (if they can live with the chorus of ‘self-hating J*w’) , as the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz continually prove.

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