The! yen war of words! | between the former Opposition Labor Leader, Kim Beazley and the current Opposition Leader, Simon Crean has been widely documented and reported. The Australian media, however, with some evidence of bias, has given two sides of the conflict! V that of Beazley and that of Crean, and has produced a rather inaccurate depiction of the! yen Labor leadership battle! |.
I have limited my attention to analysing this skirmish through the news print sources, The Australian and The Courier Mail, and focussing in particular on the weekend of the 26th to the 28th of April and a later date of the second week of May. Two of the three elected articles were printed shortly after the battle first erupted and the third article, from May, was published less than a fortnight from the next scheduled caucus meetings. These two time periods allow the differences between the articles to become apparent as time can be used to distort an issue. The potential for accuracy distortion of the issue, and consequently, misinterpretation, owing to media treatments is twofold: distortion is evident amongst the actual reports; and there is distortion developing from what the media treatments have omitted to reveal.
However, there are six main areas in which variations are most evident: " Physical placements of news and commentary items"; Extent (length or duration) of items"; Language choice and consequent tones of items arising from the effect of language"; Level of explicatory clarity of items (how informative and understandable the article is)"; Extent of inclusion and omission of details; and " Balance of treatment Throughout my examination of the variations abovementioned, I shall focus on the contention that one of the characteristics of any news reporting media is their lust for political blood! V nothing is easier to knock off than a political deadweight. An article that appeared in the Sunday Mail on the weekend of May the 18th reveals to the reader that the de stabilisation of the Labor party is the result of former Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley's statements to The Bulletin being misconstrued by some supporters as a challenge to Simon Crean's leadership. Now to the variations detectable amongst the Australian media. The first article which I have chosen to analyse shows bias towards Simon Crean.
The Courier Mail, on Tuesday, 13th May published! yen Crean lays down law on disloyal conduct! |. Since this article was written more than two weeks after the initial uproar, the importance of this issue has depleted and this is evident in terms of the placement and extent of the item. Appearing in the top left hand corner of page 6 and recording only 455 words, this report was placed next to the 300 word article covering the progress and admission prices of the newly-built Suncorp Stadium. Measuring only 2.5 x 3 cm each, two small colour photos of the factions involved in the ALP crisis are shown under the bold headline; yet, three colour images of the Suncorp Stadium grounds, ranging in size from 18 x 9.5 cm to 9 x 6.5 cm, measure the length of the Beazley vs. Crean article. Unmarked but clearly evident, the layout of page 6 shows three columns; the first measuring 12.5 cm wide, the second measuring 19 cm and the third measuring 8.5 cm.
The relevant article, placed in the first column, measured 12.5 cm wide and 27.5 cm long, taking up less than one sixth of the page. In terms of the type of language used, the news item expressed a sombre attitude towards the statement, or rather, ! yen ultimatum! | that Simon Crean laid down to his front bench. Sensationalist but accurate phrases such as! SS issued an extraordinary ultimatum!" , ! SSf all in behind! K or face the sack!" , !
SS direct threat!" , and! SS leadership speculation!" introduce the Courier Mail article. References to Simon Crean such as: ! SS tough display of leadership!" express the bias of the article written by National Political Editor, Dennis Atkins.
In terms of the level of information and understanding conveyed, the knowledge of the original conflict has been clarified in the first hundred words of the article making the Labor leadership battle easy to follow. Direct quotes have been taken from both parties, Crean and Beazley, as well as indirect speech stating the views of both representative sides. However, the Courier Mail has failed to give balanced treatment and bias becomes blatant in this article. Bias towards Simon Crean is developed not only from the obvious text devotion of 53 out of the 88 lines but again, it is evident through the aforementioned language including: ! S SMr Beazley's supporters! Were genuinely shocked by the strength of Mr Crean!" and!
S SKim Beazley! K sparked the latest round of leadership speculation!" . Kim Beazley, in this particular article, has been cast as the political deadweight. The Weekend Australian, on the other hand, slanted towards the political power of Kim Beazley. The second article which I have chosen to analyse, ! yen Angry Beazley holds his fire! |, was published on the weekend of the 26-27th April. In terms of the physical placement and extent of this article, the Weekend Australian appears to have brushed this issue aside for larger, more nationalistic issues such as the SARS epidemic and Anzac Day ceremonies.
Although published on page one, the ALP crisis received only 270 words. Like the previous newspaper, the Weekend Australian displayed three discrete columns; the first measuring 4.5 cm, the second! V 24 cm and the third measuring 9 cm. Displayed on the far right column and printed halfway down, less than 10% of the page is occupied by the Crean vs. Beazley article. The commentary was placed next to an Anzac Day article and featured a 4 x 4 cm cartoon image of Kim Beazley, however this was not colour and focus was diverted to the 25 x 18.5 cm colour photograph of a veteran participating in one of the marches.
However, once looking at the article and the caption! yen Weapon of Mass Destruction! |, the reader can sense the sensationalist angle of the author. Indirect quotes such as: ! SS uneasy truce!" , ! SS angry!" , ! SS ignited! Leadership crisis!" , !
SS formally challenged!" and! SS intense pressure!" also sway the reader to see Kim Beazley as the victim of Simon Crean's insecurities because Crean is currently trying to regain the! SS Labor's voter support!" after rapidly decreasing performance ratings that! SS collapsed over recent months!" .
Now, with regards to the clarity of the article, reiteration of the key events that ignited the Labor leadership battle are accessible and therefore understanding of the issue in its entirety was clear. However, the article's balance of treatment is slanted towards Kim Beazley's part in the issue and bias is seen through of the commentary including emotive language and images. As opposed to the previous article, Simon Crean has been portrayed as the political deadweight in the commentary. Such is not the case, however, with the last article I shall analyse, ! yen Beazley leaves door open for future spill! |. The Australian published this balanced, 300 word article on page 2 of Monday 28th April edition.
In terms of placement, this article is published above a small column written by Matt Price on the Labor leadership battle and another political column, and alongside a 14 x 24 cm colour photo of Kim Beazley; in total, taking up almost one third of the page. However, the relevant article takes up less than half of the Kim Beazley image and less than half of the entire political section of page two. With respect to the tone of the article, the somewhat sombre or serious attitude is evident through the type of language used. Statements and phrases such as: ! SS challenging!" , ! SS squabble!" , !
SS showdown!" and! SS sort out their differences!" shower the article and describe the ALP crisis as Crean and Beazley fight out their war of words. This language also clarifies the article in terms of understanding the situation. The comments that sparked the battle, Simon Crean's response and Kim Beazley's defence have all been observed, however the extent of omission in this article fails to reveal the aggressive, undermining activities of each politician.
In this, the writer of the article has deliberately left out this detail so as to balance the argument. By explaining Kim Beazley's position in this entire ordeal as the protagonist, yet suggesting Simon Crean still has an overwhelming base of support, the article has deliberately left out the nature of their squabble but cast them both as the innocent. In terms of their treatment, the three articles chosen for analysis were different in their angles with one being pro-Simon Crean, one being pro-Kim Beazley and the other being balanced or neutral. By slanting towards one party through omission of details, language, and so on, the other party is seen as the political deadweight, and easy to attack. The media assert themselves to the Australian public as an accurate form to construct newsworthy events.
However, due to bias language, distortion, imprecise angles and conscious omission, the uncritical reader, listener or viewer can be misinformed. To a degree of journalistic negligence, insight into the Labor leadership battle was overlooked and from here, my contention that one of the characteristics of any news reporting media is their lust for political blood! V nothing is easier to knock off than a political deadweight was proved.