Friday 3 April 2009

NewsLtd's naked grab for customers

I'm no prude, but they can't pull the trousers over my eyes.

Almost every trashy online 'news' site, led by NewsLTD, jumped on board and stripped off with no sense of any journalistic integrity on Wednesday. The 'no news' story was all about Atherton Roosters player, Todd Carney. The headlines were explicit and direct, and aimed to shock, lure mislead and titillate:

Then probably the best one was our very own Cairns Post, with the dashing headline Carney's nude image on phone. However, they reserved the more engaging 'Carney's tackle she didn't want to see: Woman in shock as nude pics of Todd pop up on phone', for their print edition.

There were many, many more, but I won't bother. You get the picture. Or at least 23-year-old Louise Hallam of Canberra did. Louise discovered the photos of Carney 'posing naked in a bathroom on a mobile phone handset lent to her by Telstra,' the Daily Telegraph reported.

"I was shocked at the fact that Telstra gave me a phone that had, well, basically, pornography on it," Hallam told the gullible news editor.

Up there with the Pauline Hanson's photo credibility story just two weeks earlier, this was another commercial newspaper's naked storm in a tea cup. You see, there was no nude photo. Nothing naked but shameless dodgy journalism. Put a headline with 'naked', 'porn', 'caught with pants down', and it will evidently sell some more papers. So it was a sell-out. A sell out to real reporting and telling the truth.

I'd like to ask why newspapers print this stuff?

At the risk of reprinting the 'no news' story, I want to use this as an opportunity to explain that the commercial news media in Australia - on par with America's Fox network in terms of quality and street cred - simply are lazy bloody reporters, and any newspaper that blindly follows the others like a Kiwi sheep with a tummy full of home-made pavlova, deserve nothing but the crap award of the week.

What do you mean they were't nude photos? Well the simple truth is they weren't. The headlines were all bullshit, designed to make you read the so-called story.

Here's the photograph - that the Cairns Post called 'explicit' - run in almost every paper across the country on Wednesday. The one on the right is the Post's rendition with 'TOO RUDE' stamped across the Todd's jewels:

Even the new editor of the Cairns Post, Innisfail's Andrew Webster, had a momentary lapse of reason as he struggled to wonder why he had given the story' such splashy, almost full-page, coverage.

"Pages four and five of today's paper speak volumes with what many would say is wrong with our society," Webster wrote in his editorial. He appeared to be blaming society for what he 'had to print'?

This is where our new editor could have turned that belief on it's head. He is the editor after all. He can print what he wants, can't he? Or did he get an email from the NewsLTD boss the night before telling him what to run?

Webster didn't have to give Carney's photo such huge coverage. He could have easily given the Ambos life-saving a full page story of their heroism instead of a footy player and a tale about.... well, nothing really.

He went on to say: "[Todd Carney] gets a page one pointer and the prominence of a right-hand position on page five," the Post editor wrote. "Then tucked away less visibly on page four is the story of Tully paramedic Bob McIlroy who spent 42 years in the Queensland Ambulance Service helping his fellow mankind."

"We apologise that modern appetites require a wayward young kicker of a bag of wind to upstage [Bob McIlroy] on page five. Yes, we the media are complicit in facilitating this sensationalism," Webster admits.

"But it's a response to what readers show they want," he claims.

Readers will consume what you give them. Give em dirt, and they will eventually eat dirt. In a one-newspaper town, such a claim doesn't cut it. If I was to set up a website will only lewd jokes, day in, day out, it would attract those that want lewd jokes. On the other hand, if I was to provide a service with positive commentary aimed at an intellectual audience, then the level of debate would rise and the audience would follow it accordingly.

Those that get irate at Gavin King's Saturday column, do so because he often deliberately pushes a lower-common denominator button - using hook language like misogynistic phrases and anti-Val rants. He wants reactions, and it's largely a formula that works.

A cockroach-infested takeaway serving deep-fired rubbish in the back streets of Portsmith, will still get frequented if it's the only one in the neighbourhood. Most won't cross the street and go three blocks for a fresh salad and hand-squeezed fruit juice, with herbal tea and lightly roasted lentil soup.

Sorry Andrew, but I don't buy that explanation that readers want this low level of journalism. We all expect more and have been asking for it for years. Here's your chance to turn the tide.

In his debut editorial, just some three weeks ago, the new editor expressed some noble sentiments. Many have written to Andrew, following his invitation to open dialogue about the Post's content, which is currently regarded with a certain amount of scorn and even derision in our community, especially among the more intelligent residents. is but one local Blog, along with CairnsBlog, trying to get a better paper serving our town.

An internationally-experienced, respected writer and local resident of many years, has told me how he's watched the Cairns Post slip from highly respectable and well-regarded broadsheet, under the stewardship of Alan Hudson, to a shabby tabloid all too willing to indulge in "tit and bum" titillation or beat ups.

"The standard of reporting has never been worse, in my professional judgment," the writer says. "The Post's poor coverage of local government affairs is a case in point, which is sketchy and ambiguous, at best — biased at worst," the source said who wished to remain anonymous. "It seems to be personality and minutiae-driven rather than geared to produce serious reports and analysis."

Over the three year tenure of former editor Mark Alexander, I often called into question the way in which the paper was heading. Sure you can say, don't buy it, but the truth is, we deserve better, and we should be monitoring what it tries to get away with.

Andrew Webster continues in his editorial: "Until the reading public shows itself to be less interested in celebrity stories and more in the true contributors to our community, it's [stories like Bob McIlroy]. Until then, newspapers, like democracies, are run to suit the majority."

Now this is a huge cop out. A regional newspaper has a great responsibility to carry on it's shoulders and owns the powerful medium to lead debate, challenge decisions and engage the intellectual element of our community. It's also a record of our communities growing up. A permanent archive that will be looked back on for researchers in years to come. So long as the new editor of the Cairns Post believes that the majority of Cairns wants trashy stories like Carney's, then the Post will be treated with the respect it deserves.

Those mid-60's babies out there, will remember the infamous Clayton's drink advertisement. Well, the Todd Carney story was the nude story when you're not having a nude story, story.

Oh, and here's the photo that the newspapers didn't print, in all it's 'naked' glory. The whole Carney 'nude' beat up was one big con. And it still wasn't a story.


Farctman said...

But if you look at the expression on Carney's face, you can see the jocks picture is not the same picture as the one with the Too Rude black box on it. They are two different photos. You have been conned, Michael.

Beaches Professor said...

You're absolutely right, Factman.

But Michael Moore never let a Factman get in the way of a good beatup.

Karen J Edmonds said...

Hey Professor.. thought you fellas (or fellaess) were meant to me smarter than the average bear.

It wasn't 'Factman'.. it was Farctman.

"Factman" (aka Council's Murray Langdale) went into hibernation after the election last year, and after his real identity was exposed on the Blog!

So, get YOUR farcts, I mean facts, right.

Johno - Clifton said...

So u saying that Todd whipped off his Daks for one shot ...hardly looks like it you nude detectives

Keen Observer said...

At least we now know where Todd keeps his spare pair of socks.

Arthur Festerbestertester said...

the point is not who was conned. the point is that cairns people are continually inflicted with the juvenile and sensationalised rubbish the cairns post spews out each day. now we have an editor whose amateur-hour logic and risible self-justification makes donald duck look like plato.

Unknown said...

I love todd carney how are you mike