Just to see if I was imagining anti-Labor bias in The Australian, I did a little poll of the letters page over the weekend.
Out of 21 letters, 17 were anti-Labor. Three of the others concerned various ongoing right-wing campaigns: the hoary ABC-bias meme, and the bogeyman-academic of the month, currently Jake Lynch.
There was a single non-right-wing letter, but they were forced to publish that as the result of a complaint to the Press Council.
That’s not a good look, and that was just the letters page; the rest of the paper, even the news, followed the same pattern.
The media has a special place and a special responsibility in a democracy. The more powerful the player, the bigger the responsibility. It is not a defence to say that because Rupert legally owns most of the newspapers he can do what he wants, and if you don’t like it read something else. That’s like saying that because Kim Jong-un is the recognised ruler of North Korea, if the North Koreans don’t like his style they should stop complaining and move. Mere brute capability doesn’t confer legitimacy.
The staff at The Australian are journalists; I wonder if any of this makes them uncomfortable? Maybe they just have to do as they are told, or maybe they were hired because they really believe it’s OK to warp democracy to achieve certain ends; I don’t know. I just wonder how they explain it to themselves.