The Daily Telegraph‘s front page today rails against “mindless” “dumb” “stupid Greenies” endangering the safety of the community by vandalising shark nets, despite the government report the story is based on making no mention of anyone being arrested for damaging the nets or their motivations being known. The report reads:

“With NSW in the grip of a shark epidemic — including 22 grisly attacks since 2015 — stupid Greenies have vandalised a series of shark nets at Queenscliff, Bondi, Dee Why, Manly, Curl Curl and other popular Sydney beaches.”

The story, by Miles Godfrey, is based on the Shark Meshing (Bather Protection) Program 2015-16 Annual Performance Report and is described as an exclusive, despite The Sydney Morning Herald publishing a story based on the same report. Shark nets have been undeniably controversial, and yes the NSW Greens do oppose their use, but perhaps name-calling isn’t necessary in reporting on vandalism of the nets. If Godfrey and the Tele need an example of how to more soberly report on shark net vandalism, they could just look at Godfrey’s remarkably similar front-page story from 2015 based on a previous version of the annual report. According to Godfrey in September 2015:

“Eco-warriors have vandalised NSW shark nets at least 14 times in the past five years, leaving beaches temporarily unprotected from man-eaters in spring and summer — and in some cases allowing damaged nets to drift kilometres through the ocean.”

Today’s story ran under the headline “Attack of the Net Nuts”, while the previous one was “Great White Dopes”. No use of the term “stupid Greenies” in that story, but it did include this quote from a Department of Industries spokesman, admitting “Proof of malicious damage is difficult, unless observed”.

Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Peter Fray

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