Friday 17 Aug 2018 | 13:42 | SYDNEY
Friday 17 Aug 2018 | 13:42 | SYDNEY

US media: Some lessons for Oz


Michael Fullilove


16 April 2008 08:26

One reason America is so compelling is the diversity of the faces it presents to the world. The country is remarkably religious and obsessively secular. Large portions of it are prim, even prissy; other bits are as as far out there as you can get without falling off. Australian visitors to American cities are often struck by the proximity of great wealth and severe poverty in their streets.

There is also something Janus-like about American journalism. Bad American journalism is about as bad as you get anywhere: sloppy, opinionated and partisan. Most American cities go without a decent daily newspaper. On the other hand, quality US magazines are peerless, as is the commitment to journalism demonstrated by the best American newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times.

Consider The New York Times' public editor. Clark Hoyt is billed as the 'reader's representative' and a couple of times a month he measures his employers' performance against their own standards. Or take this article, for example, which appeared right up the front of a recent edition of the LA Times, with a handle on the front page. The headline alone ('Washington Post wins 6 Pulitzers') gives the game away: which Australian newspaper would trumpet the success of a rival in this manner? When it's Walkley time here, all the Australian media outlets spruik their own successes and ignore everyone else's. The same goes for sales figures: each newspaper selectively interprets the numbers to give the impression that it is triumphing at the expense of its competitors. I won't mention the way some Australian journos choose to cover their owners' business activities.

Further down the LA Times piece there's another example of the newspaper's rigour. The story notes that Investor's Business Daily won its first Pulitzer for the editorial cartooning of Michael Ramirez:

'Ramirez, who won his second Pulitzer Prize, was dropped as the Los Angeles Times' regular editorial cartoonist in 2005. Like many newspapers, The Times no longer employs a regular cartoonist.' When I read this I had to flick back to the masthead to make sure this was the LA Times I had in my hand.

So, the next time you feel like throwing your slipper at Bill O'Reilly's dial on your television set, remember you have to take the bad with the good.