Sunday, 5 April 2009

How to create a Scoop

When Evelyn Waugh published his novel “Scoop” in 1938 he described brilliantly how the media at that time made up a story out of nothing.

His sketching is still in practice and The Age follows his description to the letter.

First: On 2nd April Paul Austin, The Age’s state political editor, reports on a speech the Governor of Victoria, David de Kretser, gave to Rotary leaders in Melbourne in February [!]. In it the Governor more or less urged Victorians to get greener. He urged Victorians to build smaller homes, stop drinking bottled water and wear more clothes in winter to reduce energy consumption and help save the planet. Hardly a call to start a revolution.

In the same issue of The Age, the same Paul Austin asked on the opinion page: “Has Victoria's Governor overstepped office's bounds?” And he gives the answer in the first line of his article: “David de Kretser's forthright views risk politicising his role.

And pretending he was really worried about the office of the Victorian Governor, Paul Austin concludes: “Many Victorians will applaud these views. Others will not. But where should a governor draw the line? Many people who embrace de Kretser's views on climate change would be horrified if the next governor were to argue, say, in favour of capital punishment or against abortion. Victoria has an activist Governor. The question is, is that what we want?

Second: On 3rd April it was again Paul Austin who talked to a Liberal opponent of David de Kretser’s February statement, in Governor should 'butt out of politics': “Western suburbs MP Bernie Finn said Professor de Kretser was damaging the office of governor and the standing of the constitutional monarchy by putting his views on contentious issues such as citizenship and global warming.

And surprise, surprise, in the same issue of The Age an unnamed editorialist (again the indefatigable Paul Austin?) came to the rescue of the Governor’s freedom of speech: “The Governor has the right to speak his mind”: “Other state governors and governors-general — for example, the late Davis McCaughey and Sir William Deane — spoke out on matters of conscience to the greater benefit of society. There was little reason their vice-regal roles should have prevented them from doing so.

Today part three of the play: "Better for Queen's representatives to walk the talk". Another editorial, this time in The Sunday Age on the vice regal role of the Governor. It summarises the previous articles and editorials, but does not add anything new to the discussion, except for the final chapters.

Here The Sunday Age can draw the conclusion that it was obviously heading for, being a Fairfax publication: “There is little evidence the Governor or Governor-General are divisive figures. What they might be instead are transitional figureheads, providing an example of how the president of a republic might act, were such a person to be appointed.

After all this week’s efforts The (Sunday) Age finally comes to the climax: “Last week both [Governor-General Quentin] Bryce and Prime Minister Rudd said they believed an Australian republic was inevitable but not imminent.

But despite all the Fairfax media’s and many politicians’ efforts the editorialist must concede: “… it is not surprising that the republic is on the backburner. Yet for the first time in Australian history, leaders of the Government and the Opposition are republicans, an interesting development that has made little impression on the public mind.

All the efforts vanish in vain: They made little impression on the public mind. The mini scoop fabricated by The Age collapsed – once again.

But that will not prevent The Age to try a re-start.

No comments: