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A race to the bottom: CT Letters To Editor

By Duke - 2 December 2007 24

In all, our town is blessed with pretty decent newspapers by way of The Canberra Times and, to a lesser extent, let’s not fail to mention the Chronicle.

Both do a great job ferreting out local news when, to many people, it would appear no print-worthy news has actually occured. National coverage and standard of journalism remain high – if only The Canberra Times readership were held to the same standards.

I am of course referring to those incessant Letters To Editor contributors – you know who I’m talking about!

There was a time when I thought The Daily Telegraph took the prize as the most blatant publisher of ignorant, xenophobic and just plain stupid letters to the editor, but lately The Canberra Times has been making a strong bid for the title.

In the past few weeks we’ve covered such hard-hitting issues as: cyclists in the ANU precinct not wearing helmets (the nerve!), biting ants discovered in local garden and men who DARE, yes DARE to leave the house face unshaven.

Ok, these are just the nuts who come out with a letter occasionally, blissfully ignorant and with no opinion on wars, politics, health, education and other small stuff.

Then we have their enlightened brethren, the cranks, who appear to have an opinion on absolutly everything and whose letters are published with such consistency one wonders why the CT has not offered them their own column.

There are two factors contributing to the problem. Firstly, Canberra is full of bored, often retired academics with little to occupy their minds. In the prime of their dotage, they’ve chosen to take up increasingly wacky causes and cruelly subjected unwitting readers to them via the mass media.

Secondly, The Canberra Times is dreadfully short of worthy contributors. While many will read the paper, few will contribute in any intelligent or legible form. If you thought letters published sound crazy, you can imagine the content of those the CT didn’t print!

To be fair, there are plenty of decent contributions to the Letters page – I’m thinking mainly Geoff Pryor – but over the past few years the insidious whims of the vocal minority have made credible inroads via the Letters to Editor page, to the detriment of our community.

Take careful note of those who wish to ‘nanny-up’ this town, in particular the animal-rights and anti-cycling movements in Canberra. Animals don’t belong on plates and bicycles don’t belong on roads, we’re told.

Publish a story on a dog frightened by fireworks and the letters flood in – publish a story on a homeless man living in a tent on Mount Ainslie and the public turns mute.

In times of global warming, obesity and increased petrol costs, many countries have embraced cycling lanes on roads – in this town people call for those lanes to be ripped up.

But don’t think people who love their cars get it easy either. Stay tuned for calls to ban Summernats next month (despite being in operation for 20 years!), much like the GMC 400 which “inconvenienced people” and “made a lot of noise.”

So say your little bit in the CT Letters page if you like, but do it to add value to our community, not to exercise your delusions.


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A race to the bottom: CT Letters To Editor
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ant 9:17 pm 04 Dec 07

I mainly read the CT on Sundays these days. The fluffiness of it is good for Sundays (and I steal it off the family). It’s amazing how Canberra’s only real paper became totally irrelevant and has stayed so. Sometimes the Chronicle does it better. SMH is a must-read daily.

Oh, and another who earns every penny is Pryor. Back when it WAS a widely read and decent paper, he was still the best thing in it. Back when Ian Warden was edgy and funny. ie a bloody long time ago.

VicePope 7:56 pm 04 Dec 07

Sepi – a day or three ago, the trivia half page had an article about – and I am not making this up – a medium of some kind who said that she had predicted in September that the Kruddster would become the leader of our nation. The story was being run about a week AFTER the election.

Pretty spooky. Not. Oh so Canberra Times.

sepi 6:41 pm 04 Dec 07

I think you’ll find teh CT pays absolute peanuts to people like Virginia Haussegger who just have a column.

I like Virginia’s pieces and I like the little titbits on the back of the news too. I like Jessica’s stuff too – they should just sub-edit a bit more strongly. At least hers is stuff I don’t feel i’ve read 5 times before.

I could do without the entire sports section, but I understand some people read it.

VicePope 6:28 pm 04 Dec 07

Neil Lade. It almost reads like a pseudonym or, indeed, an anagram, if I could thnk of one that made sense. At least as much sense as Neil Lade. Laden Lie and Lead Line are ok, perhaps Lien Deal or Nee A Dill or Led Alien. But others are right – it’s incomprehensible guff, the sort of stuff one develops before one realises that a million beers were probably too many. It shouldn’t be written and it should never get past a subeditor.

And I loathe and despise the tricksy little tidbits page on the back of the new section. SMH column 8 does the same thing much better. And treating David Barnett as if he makes any sense whatsoever. And uncritically running any line anyone last put to a journalist. And, let’s not get started on Virginia Haussegger, who writes about as well as ABC garden reporters do the weather.

If the Canberra Times invited people to pay what they were worth … I’d give a little to keep Warden, O’Shea, Page and Gourlay in whatever it is they need. Three of them are part-timers. I’d shell out for the possibility that Waterford, Campbell, Hull and Messenger might produce their one in five or ten worthwhile piece. But the rest of it is not worth being used to wrap canine faeces.

Bring on the Canberra Morning Herald/Age.

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