Friday, 19 December 2008

Not just bad editorialising, but bad editing as well: road safety reporting

This is a tale about journalists who are Clueless in coup coup land, and the editorial slants that this reveals.

The problem is this article:
Fatal bikecrash tips Queensland road toll to 316 (Courier Mail). First problem: "bikecrash" is one word? Since when? "England test upset" might be (Drop The Dead Donkey, can't find the quote listed anywhere), but I have never seen "bike" and "crash" shoved so carelessly together before.

So far, we've got a bald and perfectly objective statement. Most fatal road accidents get reported in some way, so so far, so good.

However. If you read the article (it's not long), you will notice that they refer to "a man riding a powerful sports 1000cc motorbike". WTF? This is not standard reporting. I can not remember any mention of the bike that has crashed unless it is a scooter (please let's not argue about this, it's got two wheels and an engine, it's a bike) or there was a club run involved, or the journalist recognised the name "Harley Davidson".

This worries me for the simple reason that the Courier Mail is even less not adverse to editorialising news content than most outlets aren't.

Just lately, they have stated (quotes not guaranteed to be accurate): "Government backflip puts Queensland water supply at risk" on water recycling, which I heartily suspect was a backflip on the Mail's part, and have started giving heavy publicity to the whole issue of young carers (good on them, at least) in the news pages, because they support an annual fundraising event.

So this focus on "powerful sports 1000cc motorbike" (as though Robyn Ironside even knows the significance of any of those words) is a worry. Is the Mail about to start being nasty to superbikes? (Once they work out what the categories are?)
Are they going to start calling for power restrictions, without having the decency of targeting those fucking annoying import Japanese coupes and SS Commodores, as well?

What about "Heavy cruiser-style bike"? Or "low-powered scooter ridden by someone without a bike licence"? How about a little even-handedness: "Car collided with garishly coloured, loud bike with a rider in bright yellow leathers."

I await developments with depression.

I will also, I swear, keep an eye out for all bike accident reports in 2009, and will collate how many appear to be written with an understanding of the issues, with objectivity, or with evidence of targeting bikers. And, if I can, I'll analyse each one in these pages.


mark_h said...

"English test collapse", I believe was the phrase :) The only mention of it I could find was someone-else's recollection:

Dubito said...

Hmm... My recollection is that it's during the strike episode. Damian Day and the boss (what the hell was his name? - really should look that up) are the only ones left. Damian is looking at the news and says something like

"Oh not again! There's a whole generation of children growing up who think that 'English test collapse' is one word."

mark_h said...

The boss was Gus Hedges, from memory..

(and yes, that was about my recollection of the comment :))

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