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How not to do journalism

IMAGE: The Age SatireIMAGE: The Sydney Morning Herald Satire
Watch the whitewash– so white it’s Green. The Peter Spencer story has finally broken into the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Two “journalists” paired up to put together almost identical stories as a joint effort, and do their best to add doubt and smear to every part of the Spencer story. It’s a text book case in PR. These two journalists might make passable press secretaries for a Labor government. (Which is a well worn career path).

The big-picture situation, where farmers are asking for $10 billion in compensation for land that was stolen from them, was turned into a story about how the Coalition might be split by a guy on a hunger-strike over land-clearing laws. In reality Peter Spencer could drive one heck of a wedge into the Labor Party, who paint themselves as “helping the little guy” and simultaneously claim they are good economic managers. The Labor government can’t find $10 billion easily anymore, but less than a year ago they gave out $42 billion fairly randomly as a supposedly “clever” economic policy and another $43 billion to get into the broadband business.

Here’s how these major dailies “carried” the story:
The Age’s version

Farmers rally for hunger striker


The Sydney Morning Herald’s.

Hunger strike drives further wedge into Coalition


They only have 600 words, and Peter Spencer’s story is about mass long-term government ineptitude or deep corruption, so you’d think a good journalist (or two) would be careful to focus fast and hard on what matters. The reporters are there to serve their readers. Right?

But these journalists don’t even bother to state the starving man’s aims correctly. Nowhere has Spencer claimed he just “wants to highlight NSW laws that prevent him from clearing vegetation on his land.”  He wants compensation for unjust, anti-constitutional laws and a royal commission. But if you are a farmer who has lost income, your livelihood or your farm due to land-clearing laws, don’t expect to read that someone is protesting on your behalf in either of these two mast-heads. Instead you might read about infighting in the Coalition. Are you feeling informed?

Then they find someone who set up the flawed legislation. He’s allowed to speak in defense of his work, and to attack the supporters of Spencer, and then pointedly is not asked any awkward questions.

Senator Heffernan, a member of the Howard government when the land-use laws were introduced a decade ago to help meet emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, has criticised Mr Spencer’s supporters for not doing more to end his hunger strike.

Finally Cubby and Harrison resort to launching a series of clumsy ad hominem smears, but they haven’t done much research on Peter Spencer and didn’t bother to interview him, so they can’t smear him. Instead they attack a few of his supporters. Try and imagine how any laws of logic and reason or any sense of proportion could justify spending 13% of their small article attacking a not very widely known blogger who happens to be connected to the story only because she has written three posts on the topic.

That’s right, last night I pointed out how readers of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald would have no idea of this story, and today I’ve got a named mention in both The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. I’m beginning to feel more powerful every day. These so called journalists could have written about the constitutional legalities, or the 200 days Spencer says he has spent struggling within our legal system, or the fact that the Sheriff has a warrant to reclaim Spencer’s home, or that more than 80% of his farm was expropriated without compensation. But instead, what they think is important is that … I went to Bali.

The Sydney Morning Herald even thinks it’s relevant and newsworthy that my partner holds different scientific views to their journalists on the value of the carbon credits that they didn’t mention.

I’m humbled at this celebrity treatment, but fully aware that they “think” that because they can mention yours-truly, they figure they can then get away with mentioning Heartland, and throw in a line about passive smoking and cancer. All of which has exactly nothing to do with Peter Spencer, but they aimed to smear him, and it took all six degrees of non-sequiteur separation to do it, and in an activist’s brain, that’s justified. In the tribal world of neolithic analysis, Peter Spencer belongs to the wrong tribe. He’s a farmer, with support from The Nationals, and he poses quite a threat to Rudd, the Greens, and to all the environmental agencies who Cubby and Harrison have pitched their tent with.

Stone-age (and irrelevant) ad hominems fit in with the tribal theme, but they don’t belong in a respectable paper.

Cubby and Harrison resort to bully-boy tactics instead of investigating the story. When I point out they are failing as journalists, they up the ante by trying to smear me (the paid hacks attack the volunteer eh?). Were they hoping that by mentioning my maiden name (which has zero recognition on the Australian political scene) that they would strike fear into my heart and intimidate me?  Was there some need to bring my husband into this who has made exactly no public comments on the starving man? Why are they researching me in detail instead of Peter Spencer?  That they resort to such a naked baseless attempt to smear everyone associated with Peter Spencer, instead of reporting the news, shows how dismally inept or hopelessly biased they are. It reflects badly on the mastheads. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are not even trying to give their readers the news, the whole news, and nothing but the news. The sub-editors who allowed or even encouraged this clumsy smear ought be exposed.

The inanities continue to the end:

The president of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Brian Morton, said Mr Spencer’s long-term health could be seriously affected by the hunger strike.

Well yes, death does affect people’s long-term health (and it took someone from the AMA to let them know that?).

Many of us are doing all we can to help Peter Spencer stay alive. But we want more than just the pale beaten shadow-of-a-man-fed-on-an-IV-drip that Senator Heffernan aims for. We think Spencer deserves a full life, free of tyranny and injustice.

We think he deserves to live AND have a fair go.

Farmers, land-holders, and readers of both publications should be angry.

If investigative journalists were doing their jobs they would have discovered this giant billion dollar scandal years ago, they would have been standing up for the citizens crushed by big-government. They would have fought for the small farmers hit by big tyranny and Peter Spencer would never have had to resort to something as desperate as a hunger strike. He should have been front page news long ago: Farmer’s land stolen for carbon credits! or Government laws send farmers bankrupt.

No wonder subscriptions to The SMH and The Age are declining. The people are tired of being fed propaganda.

The fake pretense that we get the news from the dinosaur-industrial-media is fading fast.
May the internet always be free.

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