I want to like the Newcastle Herald. I do, really. Look, I’m aware that may not seem to be the case if you’re a regular reader of this blogue.
(For you first timers, I have previously said some fairly critical things about the Herald with regards to what they have published about the heavy rail line and a few other things)
The problem is, as time goes on they seem to be getting more and more terrible at what they are supposed to be doing; keeping us informed. And that makes it quite a challenge to support them the precarious financial position of Fairfax Media results in substantial staff cuts.
I mean, look at this.
On 12 February, Penelope Green attended a Newcastle Business Club luncheon at which the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Jeff McCloy, have the keynote address. Her article, “McCloy says rail must go” features an overview of what went down.
NEWCASTLE’s ‘‘dying’’ centre could be revived in less than five years if the rail line and ‘‘dingo fence’’ separating the city and harbour were removed quickly to allow private enterprise to flourish, lord mayor Jeff McCloy told business leaders on Tuesday.
How, exactly? Did the Lord Mayor offer any evidence to support this assertion? Does he have a plan to facilitate such renewal if/when the rail line gets removed? Did he explain just how a piece of infrastructure is actually stopping investment in the Newcastle CBD?
We’re not told. Why? Did he not take questions or did our journalist not bother asking?
A couple of days later, on 17 February, they published, “Facebook may cost you a job” by Jason Gordon and I find it strange that for an article with a headline that lends itself towards a scary tale of people’s employment prospects being jeopardised by their use of social media (along with a sizeable image of the Facebook logo), the social network in question is mentioned only briefly in the opening paragraph and then again in the closing paragraph.
The rest of the article seems to be about how some employers are doing credit checks of potential employees and using that information to help them determine how suitable a candidate might be for the position they have applied for.
What business does an employer have to look into someone’s financial history? Well, we don’t know because our intrepid reporter doesn’t seem to bother asking that question. Instead, we get a couple of quotes from a company that provides such checks advising that businesses should “be careful”.
Well that’s great. Thanks Jason.
But Mr Gordon wasn’t finished.
“Water costs drain wallets” was the headline of his piece examining the contents of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) performance report of Hunter Water, (PDF) which was offered up the next day, 18 February.
The IPART report states that 17,946 customers of Hunter Water entered into payment plans so as to avoid going into debt with the utility provider.
Throughout the piece, our intrepid journalist insists that every single one of those 17,946 payment plans are for “households”, even though the IPART report makes no mention of this. Further to this, Hunter Water’s 2011/12 annual report states that they have 9,068 commercial customers, 985 industrial customers, two bulk supply customers and 5,738 “other” customers who receive water and sewerage services. This equates to 6.8 per cent of the customer base and you cannot assume that none of these customers are not also recipients of a Hunter Water payment plan – especially if small businesses are constantly telling us how hard their lives are and how on the edge they live.
In fact, commercial and industrial customers don’t even count when it comes to the Herald’s editorial on the same subject. Only residential customers matter, apparently.
It’s also worth pointing out that the 17,946 customers who entered into payment plans with Hunter Water equals 7.80 per cent of their 230,140 total customers.
Is that bad? Well, it’s hard to tell. I cannot find the number of customer accounts that Sydney Water has, although their 2012 annual report states they have 4.6 million people served by their water supply. But using some educated guesses, I’d say that their 156,502 customers who have gone onto payment plans represent about the same percentage compared
to the Hunter Water result, and given that, according to the ABS about 20% of the population are receiving some sort of government benefit, that all does not sound too out of sorts.
It’s also worth pointing out that these plans basically allow customers to pay their quarterly water bill in instalments, rather than as a lump sum every three months. So they’re not even really falling behind, just better managing their own cash flows. The IPART report does not include statistics on the number of customers who have not been able to meet the requirement of their payment plan.
So this seems more like a storm in a tea cup than anything worthy of a great moral panic about the government forcing people to live on the streets because they can’t pay their water bill.
Then, just this weekend, Lake Macquarie Reporter, Damon Cronshaw offers up what is probably the most nonsensical thing I’ve ever read in our beloved local rag.
“Lake resident wants nuclear power” is the headline, and the copy that follows is nothing short of spectacular.
MORISSET Park resident Albert Morgan knows a thing or two about air pollution.
Does he? Is he an expert in the field? What, Damon?
His waterfront property looks directly across the lake to Vales Point coal-fired power station.
I live just down the road from the ocean. That doesn’t make me a marine biologist.
‘‘It’s not a thing of great beauty, is it?’’ he said of the plant.
Because all industrial buildings are works of art…
Mr Morgan has lived in the suburb for more than 50 years.
‘‘I lived here before the power station was built,’’ he said.
Ahhh, he has “experience”. Right. Gotcha.
In a sou-easter, pollution from the plant blows across the lake and covers his property.
‘‘We get a lot of dust fallout,’’ he said.
He believes the pollution poses a health threat to susceptible people and counts himself lucky he hasn’t had any health problems.
Valid point. Coal dust isn’t exactly beneficial for ones health.
‘‘I’m almost 78 and it hasn’t killed me,’’ he said.
So it has caused you no direct harm? Not even a cough? Snotty nose? You’re saying that the power station causes a health risk yet can’t even provide anecdotal evidence that this is the case?
Mr Cronshaw, can you provide any research to support this claim? A link, perhaps, to a crusade started by your very own publication earlier in the year with regards to coal dust and residential areas?
He reckons coal-fired power will be a thing of the past in the near future.
You don’t say.
‘‘I reckon we’ve got to go nuclear,’’ he said.
Because…. feel free to jump in any time…
Oh? That’s it? No reasons why? This Albert Morgan, alleged expert on air pollution, reckons we should go nuclear and we’re supposed to just go “oh, well, I guess we should”?
What purpose does this story serve?
This is just shit reporting. No matter which way you cut it. Did Mr Cronshaw just write up a conversation he had with a bar fly down at his local on Sunday afternoon after a couple of crisp, refreshing beverages?
I just cannot see one single reason why this was worthy of being published.
So come on guys. You can do better than this. Do journalism. Ask questions. Put things into context. Inform the population.
Stop writing crap and stop insisting that I really should check out photos of people enjoying themselves at parties I wasn’t invited to.