A publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

The Citizen press gallery survey: who replied, what they said

 

There have been several international studies that suggest that a majority of political journalists in the US vote for progressive parties.

Thinking about the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, would you say that was: 

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How fairly would you say the Parliamentary Press Gallery reports federal politics at the moment?

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Why do you say that?

‘It’s all a bit biased against the Government
 

The statements are accurate and factual, if containing some bias flowing from the editorial direction of different publications.

  Reading a cross section of the media, I observe more fair reports than unfair – although there are plenty of the latter.

  Because we do

  Editorial pressures slants coverage to the right.

  The issue with the gallery is not political bias, it is the ever shorter attention span of political reporting, which is resulting in too much focus on instant reporting and not enough on the substance behind the headlines. This problem is growing with the decline of the print media.

  The gallery is producing more “news” with fewer resources in an environment deluged with information produced by PR professionals. As a consequent much political reporting is shallow, superficial and often little more than a churning of PR spin and staged media events. Competition is also driving an over reliance reliance on ever available anonymous political sources. All too often gallery journalists merely serve as speaking trumpets for background political operators and interest groups. Politically commentary is excessive, all too often mixed with news. Reporting of many areas of public policy is embarrassingly weak or indeed non existent.

  There is no single standard. Most people are assiduous and fair, a minority is horribly biased and ill-informed.

  While I’ve said that much of the Press Gallery votes progressive, I would say at the moment there is a distinct anti-Labor sentiment in the Press Gallery. They’ve picked their winner, staked their credibility on it in some cases, so now have a vested interest in seeing that result come to fruition. I’m sure there are other factors behind this lack of fairness, but I’m not sure enough of them to say.

  Cos its the closest option you offer. ‘Kinda fair but predictable, clichaic and superficial’ wld be a better option.

  A lot of the reporting is not only biased: some of it is also grossly inaccurate or even untrue.

  Professionalism

  I have never seen News Ltd more biased than they are against the current government. Their reporting is at best sub-standard and at worst a Coalition press release dressed up with disgusting lies. Fairfax and the ABC are balanced and fair but still miss so many opportunities to ask hard questions, particularly of the opposition. The commercial TV stations are somewhere inbetween. Probably the best reporting I have seen in the gallery has been from The Conversation (whom I do not work for).

  Gallery does its best to be fair for the most part — with exceptions.

  generally tries to be unbiased, but balance often tends to swing against the government

  There are some political agendas, on both sides, but biggest problem is pressure to be quick, prolific and (to put it delicately) interesting. This leads to frequent, if often only minor, beatups that are short on balance and nuance.

  Newspaper proprietors have political agendas (this is historically so, going back to the original partisan newspapers in the UK) and are not afraid to use the press to make a point.

  The local media journalists and photographers are to busy trying to push their own profiles and agendas.

  The majority of gallery journos endeavour to be fair and even-handed. They pursue good stories no matter which side of politics it helps or hurts. But even the fairest of gallery journos get accused of bias from time to time – usually by biased readers or viewers angry that we’re not reinforcing their political beliefs.

  Most journos – particularly broadcast journos – are sheep that follow the front page of News Ltd papers.

  News is now increasingly replaced by “narrative”, and in the case of The Aus and Tele, downright lies.

  I dont think journalist are generally left or right – i think in certain policy areas journalist might form a position, but not generally for the party. I say journalists are not completely fair at the moment in their reporting – by this time in the election cycle cynacism creeps in – and journalist might be swayed by the percieved competency of a leader.

  while I don’t believe there is a bias in the gallery, the failure of many to follow up issues does prevent many misconceptions driven by politicians, to be addressed. this is equally relevant of the failure of media advisors to respond to requests for information, and politicians who refuse to respond publicly, or even privately, to questions.

  Because journalists are professional and generally put a premium on the quality of the story rather than whether it fits their worldview. Crucially, most editors and senior managers have a right wing bias and this effects placement of stories etc.

  I think a fair chunk of the press gallery from both sides have become caught up in the political hostility and virtual brinkmanship created since the hung parliament of 2010. By and large I believe most reporters are trying to walk a straight line, but it’s been made difficult by the current political climate.

  More influential right wing journalists overly critical of gillard

  The reports have been telling the truth and Gallery members have made fair comments.

  There is a clear anti-Gillard bias in the print media, especially New Limited. Journalists simply make up stories, with the Daily Telegraph being the worst. The electronic media is bogged down in a he-said she-said style of reporting, with very little analysis or context.

  The Gallery does get things wrong but usually I think it’s pretty close to the mark

  The Gallery is a large mix of people all of varying views .. I think overall the journos do a goog job of fair reporting

  Openly expressed, unrelenting hatred of PM Gillard by key Fairfax journalists and obvious bias gainst Labor, Greens and any non-Coalition supporting independants from most News Ltd journos. Leaving ABC reporters struggling to simply deliver balanced reporting without appearing out of whack with the rest of the media (I’m not ABC). I’ve noted in the past the vast majority of press gallery journos were strongly anti-green, ignoring them and therefore missing the consistent, expodential rise of greens being elected at all levels of govt over many years. Their balance of power position gained in the last election therefore came as a surprise to many. We’ll see this time around if election analysis is more accurate, reflecting what’s actually going on in the broader and different elctorate/s., not jsut replying on polls. I’ve also noted over the years how those with loud voices (and lots of cash behind them) gain media coverage regardless of whether they’re actually representive of whom ever they say they represent, while more rational, calmer voices are ignored. For instance, I recall a snr reporter telling me a financial accountants peak body needed to ‘speak louder’ when, in a statement, it took a different postion on carbon pricing issues than a peak group representing a small but wealthly industry sector. A statement was not enough and he certinly wasn’t going to bother interviewing them for an other view. It drives me nuts. This easy agenda setting by the wealthy, brash rent seekers is appalling influential on the media and MPs. And, I’ve noted on several occassions journalists’ tendancy to adopt an, often disparaging or dismissive, line for the day as they move up and down the corridor ie “who will they say sorry to next?” revealing a real lack of contact with larger society, shallow life experience (too young?)and compassion. Though I recognise the tendancy of all journos pounding out stories to distance themselves from the human impacts of events/issues to better report clearly and independantly has an influence. Still there is also most definitely a ‘herd metality’ in the gallery, as no one wants to be seen to be out of step. I only work in the gallery on and off these days, which I feel gives me some distance nad keeps me in touch with ‘reality’. I and journo friends I respect never ever discuss stories other than with their immediate collegues, or in my case, only with my managing editor. But in the office in which I work in the gallery however, I witness journos from different orgs discussing stories. Very poor practise, probably against org editorial policy and guaranted to ensure several media orgs deliver the same editorial line.

  There’s little doubt certain media outlets report federal politics with a particular agenda in mind, but overall a vast majority of gallery journalists strive to report all issues fairly and accurately.

  Too much acceptance of received wisdom, dictated through sheer weight of numbers by organisations with a clear agenda. Not enough people thinking for themselves.

  It should, of course, be very fairly but there is little doubt some journalists write news copy with a distinct partisan agenda. Some print journos tell privately of having their copy altered for partisan reasons but still published under their by-line. This is a minority, however. For most, their independence is a proud part of their identity. Outsiders underestimate or choose to deny that sense of independence as a key motivator for political journalists. The pros generally disdain those who get captured by either side.

  They reflect the public’s hatred of the Prime Minister’ 

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the gallery at the present time?

‘How publications now and into the future will be able to balance the responsibility to report fairly and accurately with the idea that more extravagant news brings readers, and therefore advertising money.
  Keeping an eye and an ear on the longer game rather than the horse race and daily peripheral matters.

Idiots who have no idea how the press gallery functions   Resisting market pressures on information.

I’m afraid the multiple-choice format doesn’t encompass my own particular choices. For example, how would I describe myself? i couldn’t find ‘democrat’ as an option. I’m extremely conservative about, for example, the need to care for our environment. Is this a ‘left’ position, exemplified by the Greens, or a ‘right’ position, best represented by Senator Bill Heffernan? A ‘majority of journalists’ may well vote for so-called progressive parties (Democrat) in the US, but who cares what the writer votes if you actually believe you are reporting fact? And does this matter anyway, particularly if you know an anti-government (or perhaps pro-Kevin Rudd) editor is going to be approving your next pay increase? These sort of surveys reveal little. I don’t really see any value in you continuing to bother compiling it.

  Shrinking resources which is resulting in greater manipulation by ever larger armies of media advisers, lobbyists etc

    Ill-informed criticism from people who have no idea what we do   Credibility. The Gallery, like all other media, are being challenged socially and technologically. How do they maintain a high quality of journalism with crumbling business models and the demand for instantaneous reportage.

  The ‘gallery’ is made up of individuals and their organisations. Their challenge is to differentiate themselves from their peers in a group which has a culture of groupthink. Neither the individuals or the organisations seem generally inclined to accept that challenge.

  The gallery needs to get away from group-think, to stop relying on media handouts, and to start doing more of their own research, both into current events as well as our political history.

  24 hr news cycle

  Apart from the changing landscape with online publications coming to the fore (both ones run by established media as well as every backyard blogger who wants to have a rant) I feel that the time since the last federal election has been focused on background bullshit, not policy debate. The gallery needs to get back to reporting on laws, both proposed and newly passed, and put the dramatics aside for a while.

  InstItutionalisation!

  pace of new media demands, limits on access and resources

  See above, really. Keeping one’s head and standards amid the chaotic pressures of the invidious 24-hour news cycle and social media.

  There are many: 1. Managing the information flow from so many sources (media advisers, ministers themselves, backbenchers, corporate PR flaks, opposition members, social media, lobby groups, analysts, other journalists) and ensuring the veracity of the information. 2. Balancing journalistic professionalism with demands from proprietors. 3. The 24-hour a day, seven day a week news cycle. 4. Being a multi-media journalist, rather than just a writer or a photographer or online editor. 5. Maintaining good working relationships with people from all sides of politics in order to ensure the continuing flow of information and interviews.

  Conviviality, and not worrying about what the other people are doing. There is alot of pettyness between people and organizations that is generated by the insecurity of the local media members.

  No one’s got enough money or time to cover things with the depth and thoughtfulness they really deserve.

  A lack of independent thought

  Regaining trust.

  Keeping up with the 24 hour news cycle…. politicians no journalist quite know how to deal with the fast pace in which stories change.

  Time. The relentless pursuit of being first is eroding the value of getting it right, especially regards to balance. Get whatever you can up immediately, even if you haven’t talked to the other side, is the general driver. the other side can come later. this is a problem.

  Lack of quality and experienced journalists; the trivialisation of news because of the 24/7 news cycle; personality politics.

  Lack of resources and the hyper-speed of the news cycle.

  The time pressures of deadlines trumping the quality of journalism, in a technological environment that’s allowed politicians and lobby groups to bypass scrutiny.

  Shrinking resources – struggle of media companies. This is against increasing resources for political and corporate spin

  Not very clear.

  Trying to get journalists to impartially report things rather than believing that they are part of the story eg Stephen Lewis and the Ashby business. By the way, way doesn’t Tony Abbott have questions to answer about that one? I recall the PM being pursued for months about “questions to answer” regarding events in 1993.

  Maintaining diversity

  The never ending relentless deadlines that are driven by better and faster technology.. The great danger is to make a mistake reporting under the pressure of the expectation to constantly update.

  The demand for immediate delivery of news placing unrelenting pressure on to small a number of journos such that often inaccurate stories are published. Sky is well known to place reporting first above accuracy and is therefore treated as a necessary but unreliable source. The focus on pics and dramatic grabs means the loud, brash “good talent” cruising the gallery or lobbing in the Senate courtyard get coverage regardless of their worth, or representativeness. Similarly the focus on MP’s personalities is appalling destructive and insulting to the electorate – its jsut to damn easy, lazy so-called journalism. The focus on question time is destructive to the parliament- it encourages MPs to use it to gain coverage, undermining solid coverage of what’s actually going on in the parliament. To get really solid, decent coverage of all the really important stuff going on in the parliament requires time, and many more journos to focus on rounds so stories/inquiries are properely followed, allowing the public to understand the policy debates the better to decide for themselves how they want to shape their country. Overall coverage of parliament is really poor and destructive to democracy. I’ve working as a journo since 1983.

  Maintaining trust and remaining relevant in a rapidly evolving media landscape. The job of journalists in general – not just those from the press gallery – will become more important as politicians increasingly embrace social media to speak directly with voters, hence removing the middle man (the media). The media should not be afraid of this trend – if anything our role in reporting and scrutinising the decisions/actions of politicians is more critical. But we have to adapt.

  Public exasperation with reporting methods. Challenges to legitimacy and credibility.

  Social media is a sea of often fact-free opinion. MSM has been shaken by this – by the liveliness, energy and mischief of social media. Instead of having the confidence to say “we are the solid sources of reliable facts – the anti-social media”, MSM seem determined to ape the upstarts and spray nonsense about in the hope of attracting that audience. Can’t see it working in the long run. MSM is destroying the reason why it deserves to endure.

  Using sources without compromising yourself ’

In federal elections, how do you usually vote? 

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Politically, how would you describe yourself? 

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Are you:

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How old are you?

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How long have you been working as a journalist?

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About The Citizen

THE CITIZEN is a publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism. It has several aims. Foremost, it is a teaching tool that showcases the work of the students in the University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism and Master of International Journalism programs, giving them real-world experience in working for publication and to deadline. Find out more →

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