I’ve never been a fan of the Newcastle Herald. I’ve always thought that when the Internet really starts to make hardcopy news unviable, they’re going to be one of the first to go.
Ordinarily, the quality of their reporting is pretty low, their choice of stories to cover is more often than not bamboozling and, well, it’s just not worth the effort to read.
But what’s been written up over the last few days regarding the future of the heavy rail line between Hamilton and Newcastle is just completely pathetic and runs counter to every idea about independent media there is.
It started on Saturday with an article by Neil Goffet that was headlined “Government poised to rip up Newcastle inner-city rail”. Makes it sound like a decision has been made, doesn’t it?
Well, no. The opening two paragraphs read
“THE state government is poised to make one of the biggest political statements in the Hunter’s history by ripping up the inner-city rail line between Hamilton and Newcastle.
At least that’s been the talk of the town all week.”
Yes. That’s right. They’re definitely going to do it because its “been the talk of the town”. No sources. No documents. No facts. Nothing. They’ve just made it up, or decided to report on the ramblings of the meth heads on the 100 bus.
There is nothing in what follows that can even remotely demonstrate that anything is likely to happen with regards to the rail line in the future.
All the Newcastle Herald can tell us is that “Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister for the Hunter Mike Gallacher will not make an announcement until next year” and that Tim Owen (state member for Newcastle) has said that “We are having ongoing discussions with stakeholders to examine the options for transport in Newcastle and the Hunter”.
Yes. That makes it sound absolutely certain that we are right on the cusp of having a decision and a transport structure plan for the Newcastle CBD delivered to us any moment now.
Or, more likely, this is a complete fucking beat-up.
This would normally be bad enough as it is. But the Newcastle Herald continued today with an article by Matthew Kelly which announced “Leaders, businesses welcome rail news”.
Wait. What news? You mean the rumours/fiction you reported on Saturday? That’s now “news”?
Here are the opening two paragraphs from Mr Kelly’s report:
“CIVIC leaders and business groups have welcomed news of an imminent decision on the Newcastle rail line.
It follows a report in Saturday’s Newcastle Herald that business sources believe the state government will announce early in the new year the creation of a terminus at Woodville Junction.”
Business groups are welcoming news that business “sources” (read: the same people) have said is coming that helps suit their agenda?
No. Fucking. Way.
Reading on through that piece there are, again, no actual facts that show how the Newcastle Herald has come to the conclusion that any decision is imminent. This is a perfect
example of a media outlet reporting rumour as fact.
They continue “the Hamilton to Newcastle link would become a green corridor, which could be used for a future light rail service”.
Really? Can you show me a link to the final, approved plan that converts the corridor into a green space? No. They can’t. Mostly because a final plan doesn’t exist. There have been plenty of proposals over the years, but nothing has ever been set in stone. So to suggest what the corridor – if it were removed – would become is just reporting complete and utter fiction as fact.
For a trusted source of local news, this is just not on.
It’s all pretty terrible and as Wayne Mullen, on blog “View from King Street”, points out that this sort of reporting “begins to look like editorial bias, and the Herald seeking to determine the outcome of the debate in line with its own editorial preference”.
He’s spot on. Arguments about the rail line have been going on for longer than I can remember and there’s nothing that suggests anything is going to happen about it any time soon – so why start talking about it now all of a sudden?
At best, this is just lazy editors looking to stir the controversy pot now that the Laman Street Figs debacle seems to be drawing to a conclusion. At worst, this is the media deliberately attempting to influence a debate in order to help push one particular agenda (an agenda in line with the political interests of their advertisers, really).
Well, I guess at least it’ll give me something to write about for a while…