March 9th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

The Hollingworth Affair

Federal Cabinet decision on cloning

Media putsch overwhelms Governor-General

Will CHOGM bite the bullet, oust Mugabe?

Straws in the Wind: Rumpole arising

Environment: National parks are an unacceptable fire risk

Agriculture: Bar lowered on quarantine once again

Media: Crude but effective

Environmental optimism (letter)

Bias: in the eye of the beholder (letter)

Economics: Privatisation: the promise and the reality

Comment: Trust: a commodity in short supply

Culture: How the media exploits the US$150 billion American youth market

ASIA: WTO entry will put pressure on China-Taiwan ties

Books promotion page

Bias: in the eye of the beholder (letter)

by Tim Wallace

News Weekly, March 9, 2002


John Styles' seeming concern with the sexual orientation of the new presenter of the ABC's Media Watch program, mentioned as it is in the first sentence of his February 9 column, is as unhelpful as his suggestion there is a flow of "left-leaning political and social reportage from ABC news and current events".

Mr Marr is a homosexual, but so what? Though I have not always agreed with the arguments advanced in some of his opinion pieces - particularly his bugbears with the Catholic Church - I would think that, on any objective measure, he is an excellent candidate for the job of presenting Media Watch.

Mr Marr is well-respected by his peers (and, I believe, well-liked), highly presentable and has a distinguished background in television journalism. As a Fairfax employee there is the question of conflict of interest, but that applied just as much to his predecessors in the job (and would also apply to Paul Sheehan, whom Mr Styles champions on the basis of the somewhat over-rated Among the Barbarians).

If conflict of interest is a real concern, a decidedly different column should have been written.

Journalists, taken as a collective, tend to hold views that might well be described as "left-of-centre" - support for republicanism, sympathy for refugees, etc - but in this day and age that doesn't mean a lot.

These days much of the agenda of News Weekly and the National Civic Council might also be described as left-of-centre. But most allegations of political bias in the media, as I recall from the studies I read during my journalism degree, say more about the political bias of those making the allegations than what they are complaining about.

Those genuinely of a leftist ilk, for instance, regard the mainstream media as a running dog of corporate interests, and complain long and hard about how their own views aren't treated fairly. It's a common complaint across the political spectrum.

It might therefore be helpful to be more circumspect in the use of imprecise and divisive political labels which, I suggest, achieve nothing apart from muddying perceptions of what News Weekly is about. Leave the job of looking for the pinkos behind the news to the shock jocks and Liberal Party apparatchiks.

Tim Wallace,
Fitzroy, Vic

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