Thursday, June 21, 2012

How To Get Published in The Age

EARLIER THIS YEAR, the energetic warmist John Cook left the rear door ajar at his Skeptical Science, allowing the uninvited to slip through and peruse a wealth of archived and formerly private correspondence between the site’s proprietor and the more ardent and intimate catastropharians who wring their hankies at his select invitation. Links to several now-dead .zip files were posted on the web, and several kind readers passed along all those notes and letters to the Billabong, where they provoked quite a few chuckles but no posts. At the time it seemed other than the act of a gentleman to read another’s mail and talk about it, so the archive’s many illustrative opportunities to cite fevered minds in action went untapped.

That is still the attitude at the Billabong, although this column by Jo Chandler and Ian Munro in today’s Phage has prompted a bit of a re-think. As you might expect, and as we will see repeatedly over the weeks to come, it is all about the hallowed Fairfax manifesto of editorial independence and how vital it is to the quality journalism people like Chandler and Munro produce.  There is one little section, though, that justifies hiking the hem just a bit on Cook’s archive. It is Article Three of the Age and Sunday charter (apparently the Silly and other papers have their own) and re-produced at the foot of the Chandler-Munro article. Here it is:
3. The board of directors acknowledges the responsibility of journalists, artists and photographers to report and comment on the affairs of the city, state, nation and the world fairly and accurately and regardless of any commercial, personal or political interests including those of any shareholder, manager, editor or staff member.
What brings this to mind is Cook’s archived note to a fellow warmist -- a note in which he explains how, when the Phage wandered off the reservation and allowed Bob Carter to decry warmism on the paper’s opinion page, he succeeded in having  a rebuttal published in the same space and on the very next day. There is no link to what follows, but take a Bunyip’s word that everything below is as it is in the original. Cook wrote:
“What I have learned so far is to build relationships. I got the Age piece because I knew Jo Chandler at The Age. She was the one who advocated for me to the opinion editor that I should respond to the Carter article. So schmoozing is something we all have to work at. Try to build the relationships with local journalists and editors. How? Beats me but if you figure it out, let us all know!”
So, just to recap, Article Three of The Phage’s Mingy Carta avows that journalists will eschew influencing editorial content “regardless of any commercial, personal or political interests.” Yet Chandler, who is a warmist to her boot heels and just happened to have a newly released alarmist tome in the shops, used her influence to make sure her mate Cook was given the final word. And just for good measure, Chandler administered a follow-up wallop to Carter a couple of days later. All of that would seem to be at odds with each of Article Three’s stipulations against reporters advancing their personal, political and commercial interests.

But there is more than that, and it behoves Mrs Rinehart’s incoming editors to think about, for example, the apparent ease with which eager reporters can be schmoozed, to use Cook’s term, by activists pushing agendas that those journalists find congenial.  If the Age had a few resident sceptics for balance, people who might also have leaned on the opinion editor, it might not matter so much. But one gathers that they and their potential advocacy have been driven off in much the same way that a favoured propagandist was ushered in.

It also helps to explain why The Age has shed so many readers and so much credibility.  According to Chandler, who chairs the House Independence Committee, the charter is vital – vital, apparently, for suppressing dissent from the views prevailing two floors above the corner of Collins and Spencer streets.

It will be interesting to see how Mrs Rinehart sets about changing all that.

UPDATE: Go a'googling for Carter's Age article and look at the headline that shows up in the search results: "Climate change denialist Bob Carter -- The Age". As this headline is not the one on the story, would it be a fair guess to assume it has been tagged like this score google links?


  1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.June 21, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    I am in the depths of Greenland, Prof, staying in Launceston in Tasmania, accompanying the Hairy One while he is on business. Surprisingly, given the dire warnings that the local Greens espouse, global warming is rather slight in these parts, I note. It's freezing outside. The Age though has been popular around here. The green influence in this State has woven a cloth economically that the powers-that-be now find they have with difficulty to cut to meet needs, with health services the front-running disaster-in-waiting.

  2. John Cook, the Brisbane cartoonist, is the perfect person to run Skeptical Science; science fiction cartoons are a specialty:

  3. The principle of "everything is fair" in a good cause.

  4. Basically if you fill the staff role with the right kind of people your independent media outlet will put out the right kind of message (right = left). All Gina has to do is bring the other kind of people in and let them write, independently - what's to complain about?

  5. The linked article by jaunty Jo says this:

    "By June 1856 the paper was sinking again, at which point it was acquired by journalist Ebenezer Syme for £2000."

    Ebenezer should have waited until now; he probably would have got a lot of change from his 2000 quid.

  6. Google uses the html 'title' page to create the listing in the results pages.

    So while the article title is something more bland, the page title is most definitely :
    [title]Climate Change Denialist Bob Carter[/title]

    In other words, whoever published the article on the Age website specifically changed the page title so that the search engine results page listing would show the 'denialist' title rather than the actual article headline. They certainly did it on purpose knowing what the result would be.

    It's actually quite odious when you think about it.

  7. " . . . what's to complain about?"

    The Charter that Ms. Rinehart is being "asked" to sign says that she won't interfere with the editorial decisions of the staff, PLUS she cannot choose who will be the editorial staff.

  8. Just a note about the Denialist bit, if you check the page source (go to link at the Age) right click and view source) you will see that this is the title those at the Age have decided to bestow upon it. It is this title that shows up in search engines. Makes it a bit worse i believe.

  9. Yeah that title thing is worth highlighting! From today's edition,

    Displayed: Hopes fade in search for asylum boat survivors
    Source: Hopes fade in search for asylum boat survivors

    D: Russia vows to deliver Syrian arms
    S: Russia vows to deliver Syrian arms

    D: Disappointing end to Rio summit
    S: Disappointing end to Rio summit

    D: Heroin woman: I did it for children
    S: Heroin woman: I did it for children

    D: A nation awaits Caviar's coronation
    S: A nation awaits Caviar's coronation


    D: An inconvenient fallacy
    S: Climate Change Denialist Bob Carter