17 September 2007

Brilliant and terrible

The Australian is sometimes called "The Government Gazette" for its bias in favour of Howard, Bush and their collective worldview. I'm with Oscar Wilde: it's not important whether it's biased this way or that, what's important about the Oz is not just its defiance of economic gravity but also that its content is occasionally brilliant, occasionally rubbish. It's worth an occasional read on the hope of catching the former while running the risk of the latter.

For the most part, Matt Price is a hopeless press gallery junkie who has no idea that a star turn in Australia's dullest theatre is of no importance whatsoever, no matter how much or even how well it is reported. "You've gotta love Tony Abbott", he frequently declares (actually, no you don't). But when he does something like this, you understand why the guy was hired at all.
I thought Rudd would wreck his ambition of becoming prime minister by prematurely felling Beazley.

You were hardly alone there Matt, but the question is: what are you doing to snap yourself out of press gallery groupthink? Anything at all? Do you think it's worth doing? Do you think your service to readers will be the better for it, or are you focused only on Chris Mitchell or Harto as your bosses and as your peers, the kind of people who show up to Alexander Downer press conferences?

Price absolutely nailed Albrechtsen and Bolt for not going down with Howard. Howard did everything they wanted him to do and now they've cut and run on him. It's one thing for people who never liked Howard, or who disagreed with Iraq or WorkChoices or whatever, to feel vindicated by current polls. These people cheered every time Howard outflanked Costello. Price is dead right to go them, both News Ltd Kulturkampfsturmgruppefuehrern - even though in a general sense there may be collateral damage in discouraging political commentary from outside the press gallery. I'm willing to take this risk due to the banality of the targets concerned, so well done Matt Price.

Price not have succeeded entirely in getting over himself and press gallery groupthink, but his piece was a refreshing contrast with some who doesn't think it's even important to get your head out of the Canberra vortex.

Having admitted that Rudd is a more formidable opposition leader than Howard, or his Irish counterpart, has faced, Milne ignores the lesson and ploughs on with a tendentious Irish parallel anyway. Leave the extensive quotes of other journos to pad out your column to Alan Ramsey, Glenn.
... in a bid to "divine the benign" as I like to put it: to penetrate a voter mood in Australia ...

If you've already framed it the way you like it Glennie, what is poor Frank meant to do? Your job is to report affairs from the capital to the nation, not the other way around - there's no point in you or anyone penetrating a mood, a silly piece of imagery that goes to the very otiose nature of the Milne perspective. It's not your job, Glennie, to decide that dissatisfaction with the government represents "micro-grievance", an effete and idle dismissal of your readership.
You get the feeling that they could run back to make it all good again at any moment.

Based on what, Glennie, apart from your wishful thinking? And why the use of the third person - if you could make Milne realise that he is addressing those he would "penetrate", he might think and write differently. Well, it might be too late for Glennie personally but here's hoping anyway.
Oh, and the swing back came in the last week.

Oh, so all those paeans to the inherent cleverness of the government and its power of incumbency, all those false warnings of the imminent bounce (after the "honeymoon", the Sunrise Anzac thing, the strip club etc.), let's forget all that. Here Milne contrasts himself unfavourably with Price: he's not willing to examine the quality of past punditry as a means of re-examining the way he does things going forward. Oh, and what if you're mistaken about that too, Glennie?

The only point you can draw from Milne's bilge is that it doesn't make sense to take control of both houses of parliament from one major party and give it to the other, where the agenda is not particularly different. This is the point worth making, which is why (what I like to call) padding out his column about Ireland is so silly, so redundant, so Milne.

For Australian media outlets to station journalists at Parliament House incase they say something interesting is a bit like stationing journalists in Bali incase a bomb goes off. Colour pieces on stoned surfers would be at least as enlightening as content-empty statements, re-announcements and unconvincing dirt files. Political journalism needs to be rethought: it is the weak link of media's future. Now that the "Government Gazette" model is exhausted, it is entirely possible that The Australian can develop a way of reporting on public affairs that informs and evaluates rather than patronises.

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