Pure Poison IconHere’s news.com.au tonight trying to turn the news that an “independent” MP who mainly votes with the Coalition, Tony Crook, is officially returning to the Coalition – not changing the numbers in parliament in any meaningful way – into some kind of crippling defeat for the ALP:

The move by Mr Crook, who has voted with Labor more than 30 times in the lower house since the last election, puts the Coalition’s numbers at 72 members to Labor’s 71.

“Who has voted with Labor more than 30 times”. That would be a more meaningful figure if they included (a) what those votes actually were (were they “let’s adjourn for lunch?”) and (b) how many times he’s voted with the Coalition. Of course, that critical context might kind of undermine the insinuation that Tony Crook was up until now actually an important ally for the Government and his “loss” will change something – but I’m sure that misleading news.com.au readers wasn’t their intent.

Sorry, didn’t mean to break your flow, “news”… you were saying?

While Prime Minister Julia Gillard still controls the house through her deals with the independents and Greens, Tony Abbott now has bragging rights for which major party has more members…

BRAGGING RIGHTS! Exactly what the political media are focused on. Not what legislation passes because a majority of MPs in the parliament keep outvoting Tony Abbott… but how we can manufacture some arbitrary “bragging rights” for him.

You know, journalism.

UPDATE Fairfax is also running the same piece. Looks like both organisations ran the AAP source wholesale, no actual journalism of their own… Meaning that it’s AAP responsible for the omissions in the original, and meaning that the two biggest newspaper publishers are giving their readers exactly the same one-sided version of events. Some choice.

UPDATE #2: Hilariously, one of the clowns from news.com.au is now quoting this post with the defence that it was originally an AAP piece and so it’s not news.com.au’s fault at all that it published it in place of any of its own reporting of this supposedly important political news. And, hey, Fairfax did it too!

(Said clown doesn’t actually address our point as to the misleadingly one-sided nature of the article in question, so we can only assume he concedes it.)

I’m interested in this idea that a media organisation isn’t responsible for what it publishes if it grabs it off a wire. Is it responsible if it’s a directly-employed journalist who works in the building? What about an “independent” contractor who does work for a few companies? What about a commissioned piece? At what point does a news organisation take responsibility for what it serves up to its readers?

UPDATE #3: You know, “Readers Misled” is about the most accurate headline I’ve seen on news.com.au for quite some time.

UPDATE #4: It’s odd, but the “professional journalist” from the Daily Telegraph in question seems to have serious difficulty with properly quoting other people’s work. For example, in his version of this post, he completely excises certain critical words and sentences without bothering to include ellipses to let readers know that he’s done so.

So this paragraph above loses all the text I’ll put in bold:

The move by Mr Crook, who has voted with Labor more than 30 times in the lower house since the last election, puts the Coalition’s numbers at 72 members to Labor’s 71.

“Who has voted with Labor more than 30 times”. That would be a more meaningful figure if they included (a) what those votes actually were (were they “let’s adjourn for lunch?”) and (b) how many times he’s voted with the Coalition. Of course, that critical context might kind of undermine the insinuation that Tony Crook was up until now actually an important ally for the Government and his “loss” will change something – but I’m sure that misleading news.com.au readers wasn’t their intent.

If you’re going to leave critical sentences out of your quotes, mate, how about doing it properly? Readers misled, indeed.

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