You’ve got to love (by which of course I mean “sigh sadly at”) the almost infantile response by The Australian to criticism of its declaration of war against the Greens last week. Rather than being chastened, clarifying for readers that although on an editorial level they don’t like the Greens they will of course be professional when reporting on them in the news section, the paper is unrepentant, playing the persecuted card:

Yes, we will keep reporting

IT is now clear that senior members of the media, including The Australian Financial Review’s Laura Tingle and the ABC’s Fran Kelly and Barrie Cassidy, have embarked on a concerted campaign to delegitimise tough reporting and this newspaper.

repressed
Help! Help! We’re being repressed!

But I don’t recall anyone criticising The Australian for “tough” reporting. It was being criticised for shamelessly one-sided reporting, and declaring that it wanted a significant party “destroyed”. Which is of course quite different.

Oh, dear. This is going to be a disingenuous defence based on exaggerating and misrepresenting the criticisms made, rather than responding to them head-on, isn’t it?

Yes. Yes, it is:

We make no apologies for some strong reporting on our front pages, including on the day independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor opted to support Labor. But reporting the views of Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson is not the same as editorialising.

We understand why some in Labor might like us to take our foot off the pedal and give the Greens and independents a holiday. We understand why some media rivals would like to silence reporters who have shown them up with day-to-day political and business reporting and analysis as well as investigations. What is harder to comprehend is how politicians wedded to the democratic process and journalists who believe in a free press can imply it is in the national interest for politicians to be protected from the usual scrutiny of the media.

But The Australian wasn’t criticised for “strong” reporting. Nobody suggested that “reporting the views of Noel Pearson” was editorialising. Nobody’s asked it to “give the Greens and independents a holiday”, or tried to “silence” poor old News Ltd. No-one’s asking for political parties to escape “scrutiny”.

The problem is the partisan (and misleading) way in which News Ltd has acted not as a trustworthy broker of information but as an advocate for the Coalition. Not just on its editorial and opinion pages, but in its entire coverage of the political arena in the “news” pages as well. And, of course, the consequences for its credibility on the subject of the Greens and, by extension, this minority government when it has declared it wants them “destroyed”. As editor Chris Mitchell must know, that’s what commentators are discussing, not some diabolical conspiracy to “silence” fair criticism of Labor and the Greens.

Could you actually address that criticism in your defence next time, Chris? Rather than disingenuously misrepresenting it as something entirely different?

Turns out it’s not only the Herald Sun that likes to treat its readers with contempt.

PS: I love the News Ltd claim that it was even-handed before the election on the basis that some of its newspapers went for Labor. But of course all its big mastheads, the ones with real influence, went for the Coalition, and Labor was left with the Adelaide Advertiser and two Sunday papers.

ELSEWHERE: The Daily Telegraph works to confuse its readers about refugee numbers. Sadly what I said aboutThe Australian above and the Herald Sun yesterday applies to their NSW counterpart, too.

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