Australian journalists must avoid such amateurish mistakes

In Delimiter yesterday, Renai LeMay asks with all seriousness if Tony Abbott is consciously lying about the costs (to the government and to customers) of the National Broadband Network. You wouldn’t think it would be a very long article: just “Yes he is” and where do you go from there?

But LeMay lays out in detail some of the statements Abbott has made in the past few months and carefully examines the evidence for (not much) and against (lots) these being based on anything resembling consensus reality. Statement, facts. Statement, facts. Statement, facts.

LeMay then wonders how a journalist is supposed to treat a politician who has clearly moved beyond ‘factually inaccurate’ or ‘mistaken’ and deep into ‘wilfully misleading’ or ‘lying his arse off’ territory.

A fair question, but there is a simple answer, which you can deduce by following the behaviour of almost all journalists in the Australian mainstream media. As I commented on the article:

It’s not a journalist’s job to point out when a public figure is lying. Just report what s/he said and find someone who said a different thing to balance it out.

Don’t give away which one you think is more credible or introduce any facts on your own — it’s well known facts have a left-wing bias. Just make sure you give both sides of the argument equal space for their assertions and let readers make up their own minds.

Didn’t you go to journalism school?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bill Bennett says:

    Australia (and for that matter New Zealand) could do with a version of Politifact, a US site which obsessively fact checks political statements made on both sides of the fence.

    It’s useful, informative and entertaining.

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