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Beyond the expected

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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24 Responses to
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.

Mr Evil 10:22 am 04 Dec 07

What about Jessica Good as a Page Three Girl?????

Wasn’t John(?) Passant a regular CT letter writer/whinger at one point?

Hasdrubahl 9:08 pm 03 Dec 07

I am still waiting, in eager anticipation, for the Jessica Good column to appear.

Felix the Cat 9:00 pm 03 Dec 07

Yes, good old R.S. Gilbert….he seems to write on a variety of topics but his favourite seems to be bicycle bashing.

ant 8:25 pm 03 Dec 07

Ugh, Neil Lade. Unreadable stream of conciousness weird-arse twaddle.

bonfire 4:19 pm 03 Dec 07

neil lade. i have no idea what his columns are about. they rarely make sense.

jemmy 4:14 pm 03 Dec 07

Or David Barnett, Writer of Canberra who gets a weekly column. My god, he’s a writer, we’d better pay attention then, he’ll understand economics and politics. The boring old goat has one theme that he repeats week after week after fscking week. That theme is (you guessed it) economics and politics, about which he has no insight or understanding.

scumdorg 3:46 pm 03 Dec 07

Re VicePope: You forgot to mention R.S Gilbert who gets a letter published every few days. His initials are particularly relevant.

VicePope 3:00 pm 03 Dec 07

Yup. The letters are dreadful. But they constitute the bit that comes from the punters, and that says a lot about the folks out there. Given some of the letters printed (the ant-bite was a particular laugh, as was the unshaven=repulsive one and anything from anyone whose name one recognises from previous epistolary forays).

The point it has reached is that once one sees some name at the foot of a letter, one knows what the letter will contain. Mike O’Shaughnessy will link everything and anything to vegetarianism. Judith Rona can probably find an anti-Israeli message in a real estate ad. Etc. Etc. Every political/social/environmental/scientific issue has folk who can connect any story to their obsession. Most papers don’t print this stuff, because they get enough moderately sane and amusing letters to run.

The Canberra Times probably doesn’t. And that’s because it’s getting closer to the Chronicle and further from serious journalism every week. Bring on the Canberra SMAGE.

V twin venom 12:52 pm 03 Dec 07

Quite a dilema. I think you should send a letter to the Editor.

barking toad 10:11 am 03 Dec 07

Didn’t bother reading beyond “…our town is blessed with pretty decent newspapers by way of The Canberrra Times….”.

Anyone with that claim doesn’t deserve an audience.

philbert83au 9:50 am 03 Dec 07

The biatching needn’t be such an issue. The SMH publishes a reader’s rant called Heckler with the idea of applying wit to something that makes your blood boil, and its generally fairly entertaining. CT should embrace the whinge…in moderation. (Meanwhile, the Fairfax takeover has begun – there’s now SMH content on the CT site)

Thumper 8:33 am 03 Dec 07

The amount of pure unadulterated Howard haters has at least dropped back a fraction.

Deano 7:46 am 03 Dec 07

Actually, Mark Baker is the Editor at present. Jack Waterford is an ‘Editor at Large’, whatever that means.

Vic Bitterman 10:46 pm 02 Dec 07

The CT of this day and age is nothing more than a labor party paper. No wonder it’s circulation figures are falling.

Pay attention Mr waterford.

Professor 9:28 pm 02 Dec 07

Why bother with the Canberra Times? It is a rag, thin in content and quality. There appears to be no quality control.

sepi 8:50 pm 02 Dec 07

Pollies used to all get the CT about 10 years ago (or more even) when it was a serious political paper. Michelle Grattan used to be the editor.

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