Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No News is Tassie News

Tassie has only 3 newspapers, which, like so many things in the state, are divided along regional lines. In the northwest, there's The Advocate, in the northeast they have The Examiner, and in the south, The Mercury. All three vary in quality and meatiness somewhere between 'atrocious' and 'pathetic', but The Advocate takes the prize as the most meaningless waste of good paper. On a good day it manages to put together between 24 and 40 pages or so of articles which either come straight off the newswire (about 70%), from yesterday's Google News pages (25%) or are written by one of their staff (5%). The locally-written ones are very easy to spot; they are the ones full of spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Let's have a quick look at a breakdown of yesterday's edition: Out of a total of 40 pages, newsworthy fare approx 10 pages; full page ads 2 pp; filler articles, local people and letters to the Editor 8 pp; TV guide 2 pp; classified ads 4 pp; comics and weather 2 pp; and sport 12 pp. Average advertising space on those pages not devoted to classifieds is about 30%.

And the quality of the locally-written stuff is marginal at best. Take, for example, the front page, which breaks down as roughly 25% photo of Steve Kons, 25% headline "Premier we want a seat at your table", 20% newspaper banner, 15% full-width ad, 8% text accompanying the photo and headline (approx 100 words), and 7% 'Views from the Street'. Someone at the paper must have read somewhere that real newspapers interview people, so they went outside and asked a couple of people what they thought of Deputy-Premier Bryan Green standing aside while investigations into possible criminal actions are made against him. He hasn't resigned, he's just temporarily standing aside - so any speculation about Steve Kons or anyone else filling his shoes is pointless. The Advocate's headline article, then, isn't about anything real, but a future possibility.

But what about those interviewed people? Well, we don't know how many were asked, but only two get their opinions printed, and their comments, more than any of the above, show what brainiacs the average population are. The question: "If Bryan Green is cleared of wrongdoing should he be reinstated as deputy premier?" Notice the grammatical ignorance mentioned earlier. There should be a comma after wrongdoing, and Deputy Premier is a title, and should therefore be capitalised. And the two printed responses?

Barry Taylor, Devonport: “I don't think so. He's done the wrong thing.”
Er, the question did say if he is cleared, Barry. That would mean he hasn't done the wrong thing at all.

Steven Townsend, Burnie: “Yep. I think he's a pretty honest guy who knows he has done wrong."
Um, if he was an honest guy, Steven, he wouldn't have done wrong, which hasn't been proved in any case. That's why we have an investigation, to see if he has or not.

As you can see, Tasmania has a unique perspective on virtually everything. Newspapers without news, writers who can't write, judgement without trial, and honest thieves who can hold any office as long as they know they've done wrong. Stop the state, I want to get off.

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