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Mar 2, 2012

Actual journalism! Actual substance on a political dispute! Daniel Hurst of the Brisbane Times: we salute you.

Dear journalists wondering how to report compe

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Pure Poison IconDear journalists wondering how to report competing claims by opposing political parties,

Please check out this article in today’s Brisbane Times by Daniel Hurst.

In it, he takes the competing claims by the Queensland ALP and LNP candidates on the subject of how crime rates have changed under the current government, and – and this is the important bit I’d like you to notice – compares them with the actual figures. Thereby giving his readers some insight into which claims are “true”, and which parts are “true but misleading”.

For example:

The LNP, in its Tuesday media release headed “Crime worse under long-term Labor”, pointed to numerous crime categories where increases had been recorded over time.

The party correctly stated, for example, that the “actual” number of reported shop stealing rose from 13,911 in 2000/01 to 16,056 in 2010/11. However, the rate per 100,000 people in fact dropped from 384 to 349 over the same period.

So, not technically a lie – so, sorry, hacks, no quick “gotcha” – but an interpretation of the data that perhaps requires some context. Which Daniel provides to inform his readers!

See, what Daniel has done is taken the claims out of the realm of “to be balanced we must treat as equal competing claims by side A and side B”, and into the actual substance of how those well claims match reality.

I know – actual journalism! Actually informing readers! At the end of that article a Brisbane Times reader could intelligently respond to the claims of either side.

I can’t remember seeing something like that in our national media for a long time. (If you have, please link to it in the comments to cheer us up.)

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