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Does the Canberra Times have a political bias?

By cmdwedge - 10 September 2012 21

Hello Rioteers,

I’ve long heard whinging about how the Canberra Times (aka The Crimes) has a bit of a political bias towards the Labor Party. I’ve been reading their website a bit lately and have noticed a strange trend. If the article is a positive Labor Party one, the comments field is open. If it’s negative, the comments are closed. However, the opposite is true for the Canberra Liberals – if the story is negative, the comments are open for all, but if the story is positive (which admittedly, can be rare), the comments are closed.


Negative Liberal story.

Negative Labor story.

Now, I listen to ABC Newsradio in the mornings (666 AM) and the lady on there can seem a bit leftie, but Ross Solly at least comes across as fair and really lays into all pollies evenly. I don’t bother with 2CC.

Is this just my perception, or is something going on?

What’s Your opinion?

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21 Responses to
Does the Canberra Times have a political bias?
rhino 5:55 pm 10 Sep 12

c_c said :

Here comes the left bashing again.

I mean anyone who still sticks to left-right dichotomies is horribly past their use-by anyway. And their arguments are often wrong. ‘Lefties’ didn’t seem to have a problem getting the US into surplus pre-2000. The hawks on the ‘right’ though quickly screwed the budget though.

I would agree that the left/right scales aren’t really that useful. There are a couple of different scales for different aspects really. For economic libertyand social liberties at the least, because these are interchangeable. Often one party can have very far reaching laws on exactly what the people are allowed to do and when, independently of whether they believe in a free market economic approach or not.

But it is true, especially in the US case that politicians tend to say one thing and do another and/or just generally be inept. Their system seems to force a compromise on everything as well. And since they have so many lobby groups and special interests that have so much influence, they keep having to pour out more and more money into side projects just to get their main objectives achieved. In the end, the side projects add up to cost more than a lot of the other things.

c_c 4:37 pm 10 Sep 12

Here comes the left bashing again.

I mean anyone who still sticks to left-right dichotomies is horribly past their use-by anyway. And their arguments are often wrong. ‘Lefties’ didn’t seem to have a problem getting the US into surplus pre-2000. The hawks on the ‘right’ though quickly screwed the budget though.

breda 4:35 pm 10 Sep 12

Gina is the majority shareholder? I think she owns about 11%, worth around $8.50 at current prices.

Left wingers are innumerate – it’s one of the reasons their economic policies are invariably disastrous.

The Crimes editorialises in favour of every fashionable left wing cause, whether it be human rights legislation, gay marriage, permissive asylum seeker policies or more public expenditure on just about everything. That is their right, of course. But, just as conservative governments have to fix up the overspending of their Labor predecessors, the Fairfax press bias, which is comparatively recent, has helped to put the share price in the toilet.

The SMH in its glory days used to be known as ‘Granny’, before the hipsters took it over and alienated a big chunk of its audience. It was solidly middle-of-the-road. The Crimes used to break national stories because of investigative reporting on the Federal bureaucracy and Federal Parliament, for which it was uniquely placed. Nowadays, they are both mostly low rent lifestyle journals about baristas, celebrities and local trivia (with a few honourable exceptions).

I don’t follow local politics, but in its national coverage, the Crimes never saw an anti-Coalition story they didn’t like, and the occasional bit of whimsy from the eccentric Barnaby Joyce is not exactly balance. The use of so much syndicated material from the Fairfax groupthink political reporting pool is one of the reasons for this. They lost their way a long time ago. Readers and the share market are voting with their wallets accordingly.

SnapperJack 4:32 pm 10 Sep 12

Why is anybody even asking this? Everybody knows that The Canberra Times along with the other Fairfax publications is totally left wing. Fairfax does this simply because they believe the Murdoch papers are right wing and they believe they have to go against everything Murdoch does.

I’ve given up hoping that one day The Canberra Times will look at the climate change issue objectively rather than simply regurgitating the latest nonsense from Flannery and his disciples in the universities. I’ve also lost patience with the constant publishing of drivel by David Marr, Crispin Hull, Rosslyn Beeby and the other leftist/greenie sob sisters. And if I see one of their writers adopting the elitist position of rubbishing Tony Abbott and “shock jocks” again I’ll scream.

The declining circulation figures and worsening financial position of the Crimes and the other Fairfax publications shows how out of touch with community sentiment their writers are and as long as they continue to operate in a little bubble under the guise of journalistic independence the sooner it will be before The Canberra Times and the whole Fairfax Media group ceases to exist.

I for one will not mourn their passing.

Deref 2:30 pm 10 Sep 12

Truthiness said :

The Crimes is a centrist capitalist rag, saying they support labour would be saying there is a difference between labs and libs. The Crimes is owned by Fairfax, and the majority stakeholder in Fairfax is Gina the scumbag billionaire, who is certainly less than left wing.

Ah yes – Gina – another well-known leftie!

HiddenDragon 1:47 pm 10 Sep 12

These days, the CT’s coverage of local politics is usually not much more than you would expect from a “local rag” covering municipal politics in a larger city. Cynics and sceptics might say that’s appropriate, because the ACT government is essentially just a glorified, jumped-up city council – amusing, perhaps, except for the fact that the ACT Government is also responsible for hospitals, schools, water, electricity and other infrastructure and has the power to make laws which can impact appreciably on our lives, and our finances – and, unlike, city and municipal governments, does not have a state government keeping an eye on it, just in case the excesses get too much to bear.

It may be that the CT’s standard of coverage is due to inadequate resources, and so, for the most part, all it can do is report what it is drip-fed by ACT Government media sources, with a little bit of commentary thrown in. Equally, as others have suggested, it may be that there are all sorts of personal and professional connections between the local media types in this still small town, and that will usually tend to favour the government of the day, particularly when it has been in power for a long time, and when employment opportunities in the commercial media are not what they once were. Perhaps the truth is, as Grampa Simpson memorably replied, when asked “are you stalling for time, or are you just senile?”, it’s “a little from column A, a little from column B”.

By comparison, I think the CT’s coverage of national politics is generally worthwhile, and sometimes very much so. In recent times, we’ve had bracing pieces from Jack Waterford about Julia Gillard and her Government and today, we’ve been treated to a lengthy extract from David Marr’s Quarterly Essay about Tony Abbott. Regardless of what you may think about their sources, research, opinions and conclusions this, in my view, is thoughtful, thought-provoking journalism, and it would be very nice, indeed, if we could have somewhat more of the same in the CT’s coverage of ACT politics and administration.

One way or another, the nation can probably look after itself, but for Canberra’s sake, it would be nice to recall and embrace the spirit of the old CT motto “To Serve the National Capital and through it the Nation”.

Myles Peterson 1:30 pm 10 Sep 12

@cmdwedge A nice post on RA? I fell over. You’re welcome.

Is truly impartial journalism even possible?

I don’t believe so, it’s just human nature. The best we can hope for is journalists identifying their biases, then doing their best to resist them.

And at least if the audience knows a writer’s private opinions, they’re better able to judge any reporting through that prism.

Truthiness 1:20 pm 10 Sep 12

The Crimes is a centrist capitalist rag, saying they support labour would be saying there is a difference between labs and libs. The Crimes is owned by Fairfax, and the majority stakeholder in Fairfax is Gina the scumbag billionaire, who is certainly less than left wing.

I would certainly not trust anything written by Fairfax, these days I am hesitant to read anything which was designed to be thrown away.

Henry82 1:01 pm 10 Sep 12

TIL people read the CT

cmdwedge 12:06 pm 10 Sep 12

Thanks for a really informative post, Myles! I’ve heard the line that the Canberra Times would cease to be, if it weren’t for ACT Government advertising, so there’s a bit of a financial imperative that articles should be kind to the government of the day. It’s a shame, if that’s the case. Is truly impartial journalism even possible?

Deref 12:05 pm 10 Sep 12

Of course it has a left wing bias. You only have to read the regular column by that well-known commie agitator Barnaby Rubble Joyce!

Myles Peterson 11:38 am 10 Sep 12

There’s bias in any news organisation, but it’s not as cut and dried as saying it all flows a certain way.

For instance, most newspapers are biased in favour of the real estate industry, they’re a major advertiser and make no pains about applying a bit of pressure. But individual journalists aren’t always easy to influence and may or may not “play ball” with the advertising department. To The Crime’s credit I was once asked by advertising to rewrite a story to include a client, I refused and the offending employee was cautioned.

In terms of The Crimes and Labor, I believe certain journos are far too close to certain staffers. I received phone calls from staffers on many occasions (including my first day) when writing about Labor telling me how a yarn should be written. But that is their job. I never received similar calls from Liberal or Greens staffers. It did get a bit insidious when I point blank refused on one occasion to leave the behaviour of a certain staffer out of a story and another call was made to my Chief-of-Staff who then overruled me.

The constant use of the term “spokesman” and “spokewoman” obfuscates how close the trade in staff between media, government and politics really is. If names were identified, the audience might end up confused as to who works for who on any given day – I still am.

neanderthalsis 11:24 am 10 Sep 12

Does the CT have a political bias?

Does a duck with a hard-on drag weed?

Of course they do, it’s a Labor town, most of their readers (all 4 of them, and if you taped their lips shut and cut off their index finger, three would be classed as illiterate) vote labor, so they provide for their audience.

WillowJim 11:07 am 10 Sep 12

Mind you, the fact that the CT publishes the first comment on the story you linked to undermines your argument a little.

WillowJim 11:05 am 10 Sep 12

They never open comments on court stories, for obvious reasons, but I haven’t noticed a trend elsewhere.

I have noticed that most CT and RA comments are anti-Labor, while most ABC callers are pro-Labor. I don’t read anything into this, though.

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