The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

They call this rag a newspaper?

The front cover of yesterday’s West Australian wasn’t all that unusual by tabloid standards — an emotive and sensationalist caption that calls out a prominent State politician, a nondescript photo that could really have been anything, and a reiteration of past problems.

Not unusual, that is, until the revelation by TV journalists yesterday that in fact, the entire thing was false. The person in the picture was neither frail nor a grandmother, she had asked to rest on some hospital chairs rather than being forced, and it wasn’t for “several hours”. The Health Minister wasn’t at fault at all. So I was expecting some form of apology today — because that’s what tabloids do to retain reader trust.

But the only indication they gave that they were wrong was half a dozen words in the fifth paragraph of an article. They didn’t even print the letter from the person in the photo that had been quoted on TV. Maybe Paul Armstrong, the editor, thinks he’s on some kind of moral high-horse, crusading against a corrupt State … nevermind those pesky facts that suggest otherwise.

I’m no big supporter of the State health system — there are clearly capacity problems and management issues, and the Reid report doesn’t strike me as a particularly comprehensive fix — but this is beyond irresponsible. The Health Minister was understandably annoyed yesterday … if I was one of the parties involved in this, I’d totally be calling lawyers.

And while I’m ranting about our local daily, did I mention it’s a dinosaur that simply doesn’t get the Internet, and is therefore likely to be trounced by it in the coming years? Tuesday’s edition included an article about the Web 2.0 education software Moodle, which has a connection to Perth. All good and well … except that I remember reading about this on TechCrunch months ago. “WE get it first”, indeed.

That same edition had an article about a City of Perth committee and Perth Arena, which mentions how the West supposedly broke the news last Saturday of a plan to build apartments over the arena carpark. Which is kinda true … except that I mentioned it on this blog a fortnight before they did, my source being a picture from the masterplan that I included in that post. And better yet, I first saw that picture on the SkyscraperCity forums in December.

(Unrelated postscript #1: there’s a new compromise proposal for the commercial precinct at Fremantle Harbour, where the Rottnest ferries currently dock, which has come out of a community forum process. This one cuts back on office space a bit and offers Maritime Museum-style architecture in two buildings of six stories. While I can already hear the cries of the local “nothing over two stories!” crowd, I think this proposal is largely a good one, since it clearly has strong community support and also gives Fremantle some much-needed density.)

(Unrelated postscript #2: This is pretty cool — a searchable recording of Bush’s State of the Union speech.)

  1. Well done Pencil Guy
    my sentiments exactly
    The local rag has sunk to the bottom of the septic tank
    Worst paper in Australia

  2. Actually, I think the Mercury in Hobart is worse. At least if I flick through the West I can usually find one or two aricles worth reading. (I would concede that at the time we were in Hobart the articles may have been particularly bad, since there were all the fires and clearly it is too much to expect any editor of a tabloid to resist “Fires from hell” headlines, even over the course of a week, but my friend who lived there for a few months assured my that it was normally only very slightly any better, if at all.)

  3. Hehe, thanks phil :-)

    Thia, I agree with you … much as I bag it, the West does carry a few decent articles every issue. Their world coverage is actually pretty good — albeit only because they reprint quality stuff from Reuters and the AP. But they’re supposed to be authoritative on State politics and local issues … which I might have once believed, before hearing about stuff like this.

    Also, today’s editorial seems to confirm my suspicion about a crusade. Apparently there were only “some errors of detail about the patient and her ailment”, and the Health Minister has no right to criticise their coverage. It even admits that they “did not know who the patient was”! And still no publication of the letter the lady wrote, even though the editorial acknowledges it exists (in some ridiculous hand-wavery about privacy: according to Mr. Armstrong, it was wrong of hospital management to allow her to sign a letter critical of the publication of her photo).

    The best quote: “West Australians are entitled to information about what is going on in their hospitals, free from the institutionalised spin and obfuscation used to mask inadequacies.”

    I must remember to go sacrifice a goat at the holy, always-faultless, never-obfuscated temple that is Mr. Armstrong and his journalism.

  4. Well, I never said the stuff worth reading was originally theirs… =) I remember reading a pretty good article in there once, thought maybe they were actually improving, then looked at the byline which was Matt Price. Heh.

    The whole hospital thing passed me by, simply because we only buy the paper on Saturdays. But I do love the delicious irony in that quote =)

  5. [...] reported that the Press Council recently upheld a complaint against our local daily for their ridiculous “article” in January about a supposedly-frail lady sleeping on chairs in a [...]

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