Sunday 15 March 2009

Cairns Post 'Busted'

In a new regular column, I'll be focusing on our local daily, the Cairns Post, and watching when they stray from the line of proper journalism. I
While there's some great exposes made on Not the Cairns Post, and I've held to account a number of stories and depictions of photographs under the leadership of former editor, Mark Alexander, it's time to make this a regular feature.
On Thursday (March 5th), the Post carried an article on about an increase in international student enrolments at James Cook University.

A picture of two African students was used to personalise the story. They only problem is the two men pictured were not international students.

Although both attend JCU, they are not in Cairns as international students. They came as refugees through the United Nations Humanitarian Program. One is now an Australian citizen and the other is well on the way to achieving citizenship.

The two men were approached by the Cairns Post for the story and both told the reporter in question that they were not international students. However this was completely ignored along with the students’ comments, thereby taking advantage of the good nature of the two young men.

Of course, this is not the first time the Cairns Post has invented stories, falsified details, been guilty of sensationalism, or got its facts wrong or deliberately distorted them, or misused its power and influence. Take for example the story about the so-called 'makeshift' morgue in Karumba at the time of the large scale Cape York flooding that isolated the town back in late February.
The follow-up story the next day, another story was published, showing what utter nonsense the original article was. It was an idiotic, sensationalist and untrue piece of work. How any responsible newspaper could publish it is beyond belief, but then again this is the newspaper that had as its page one story some time ago, an article and photograph about an eye-sucking leech.

These stories raise some questions about the Cairns Post. Specifically, to whom is The Post accountable? Is it accountable at all? Is its power and influence used in a way to benefit the community and individual Cairns residents?

Do its journalists have any enforceable ethical guidelines, and if so what are they? How are they enforced, who enforces them, and what are the penalties for any breaches?

Does the Cairns Post reflect the community of which it is supposed to be a part? For example, is the relentless diet of crime and mayhem that it serves up harmful to the community? Does it deter tourists? Is our city the extremely violent place that the Cairns Post makes it out to be?

Cairns is a remarkably diverse city. It is the home of several thousand Aboriginal people whose country it is, and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders live here.

There is a substantial grouping of migrants and descendants of migrants, and it is the home of a large gay community and is a well-known gay holiday resort destination.

We have protestants and catholics, Buddhists and Muslims, animists and followers of Confucius and presumably members of every other religion and belief under the sun. Why are these never represented by the major daily?

We have the aged and the frail, the homeless the destitute, people with a disability, and they are all as entitled to be respected and to have their voices heard.

Are all these beliefs and customs and practices and ways of life, are they understood and respected by the Cairns Post? Is this typically Australian diversity reflected in the Cairns Post?

If a person is wronged by the Cairns Post, how do they seek redress? Does the Cairns Post admit its mistakes and correct them as a matter of course, rather than as a result of legal pressure? Is redress confined to the rich and powerful who have ready access to lawyers, or who can apply pressure through threats to withdraw their advertising?

CairnsBlog plans to irregularly present this column, focusing on our local daily. I'd love to hear your views about "our" newspaper. In particular, CairnsBlog would like to hear local experiences of the Cairns Post, in particular whether they had a complaint and how it was dealt with.

Goes to show, not everything that is black and white, is read all over.


Anonymous said...

Great initiave Mike.

I may have a contribution to the series before too long...

Meanwhile, how about a 'Naffest Cairns Post Article of the Month' comp. Perhaps a local business could offer a prize?

Here's my initial nomination for March, from this weekend's paper: The king and the poll dance in a world of shenanigans

These people actually flirt and cross-promote each other in print. How naff is that?

Tony Hillier said...

While the blog's new 'ComPost Watch' feature is most welcome, and timely, can I respectfully suggest that those dissatisfied with the reporting standards and contents of our local daily rag also accept the invitation of its new editor (see Saturday's editorial) and direct criticism and commentary to him at:

Editors, like politicians, should be accountable to the general public, as well as their publishers. After all, it is subscribers who pay their wages by purchasing the newspaper. Cairns deserves a much better daily newspaper, one whose reporting can be taken at face value rather than all to easily exposed and ridiculed. If there is to be any improvement, pressure MUST be brought to bear.

Anonymous said...

Gavin King's latest pretentious opinion piece (The King - Politics is screwed) on the website is arguably more naff than my previous suggestion for the 'Naffest Cairns Post article of the Month'.

Gavin confesses to an obsession with porn, then proceeds to rubbish all the political forces which contested the last election, in a succession of hit-pieces dripping with unfunny sexual innuendo.

What a shame Gavin hates just about everyone up here and can't get it up when he thinks about us. The only saving grace is that the feeling is entirely mutual.

Surely it's time to pack this feckless wanker off to another part of the Murdoch Empire?

A year or so ago, I suggested that Mr King should get off his air-conditioned butt and visit the Kuranda area, where he might pick up lessons in the art of living. I was wrong. He should quit the region ASAP before he gets decked.

God forbid that we should ever suffer a series of articles from 'The King of Cairns Base' explaining in turgid detail his slow recovery at the taxpayers expense - and how much he hates all the doctors, nurses, fellow-inmates and visitors.