Quarterly Essay 43: Bad News

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This year has seen unprecedented scrutiny of Rupert Murdoch’s empire in Britain. But what about in Australia, where he owns 70 per cent of the press? In Bad News, Robert Manne investigates Murdoch’s lead political voice here, the Australian newspaper, and how it shapes debate.

Since 2002, under the editorship of Chris Mitchell, the Australian has come to see itself as judge, jury and would-be executioner of leaders and policies. Is this a dangerous case of power without responsibility? In a series of devastating case studies, Manne examines the paper’s campaigns against the Rudd government and more recently the Greens, its climate change coverage and its ruthless pursuit of its enemies and critics. Manne also considers the standards of the paper and its influence more generally. This brilliant essay is part deep analysis and part vivid portrait of what happens when a newspaper goes rogue.

Erratum notes

Forty-eight nations in one way or another supported the invasion of Iraq. The edited text inadvertently made it appear that they all offered military support. Of course this is not the case. The essay also mistakenly claims that Christine Jackman and Chris Mitchell married in 1996. They married in 2006. Neither error affects the interpretation. Patricia Karvelas wrote a number of articles about Professor Mick Dodson’s attitude to the introduction of leasehold title on Aboriginal lands. However it was Jennifer Sexton who wrote the article in which it was claimed that as Dodson owned a house in Canberra he was a “hypocrite”.

Asa Wahlquist’s talk, of which a transcribed extract appears in the essay, was recorded by Jolyon Sykes of the Journalism Education Association Inc. and used with permission.


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