Friday, August 25, 2006

"The West Australian" - muckracking joournalism at it's finest.

[rant warning]
The desperate downward plung of the journal of record in Perth into the nether reaches of yellow journalism has been painful to watch. A cause for my regular bouts of apoplexy at the latest 'campaign' dominating the front cover. Complaints have been lodged with the Press Council on a number of occasions, warnings, and indeed, IIRC, they may have even been fined over publishing the personal details of a ten year old child they accused of terrorizing a neighbourhood. A mere bagatelle.

Nevertheless, this week they have gone too far for this mere mortal to remain silent. An editor is of course, entitled to voice an opinion, stridently if necessary. But in a one- newspaper city, as isolated as Perth is, that paper has a responsibility beyond it's partisan leanings.

This week's major story resulted from an open verdict by the Coroner in the death of an 11 month old child. The child was neglected by its drug addicted mother and had been the subject of repeated pleas by one grandmother to the Department , and to the Minister, for the child to be taken into care.

The Minister, Sheila McHale, had sought the advice of the Department which had, wrongly as it turned out, decided not to take the child into care. The Liberal opposition in Parliament, smelling blood, proceeded to accuse the minister of being responsible somehow for the child's death. The fact that no responsible minister would override the advice of the Department in such a manner was conveniently overlooked. What if she had? There would have been howls of outrage for her intervening in a welfare matter. Prima facie, interference would have been seen as grounds for her dismissal.

Nevertheless the West Australian was pumped with outrage and when the opposition alleged in Parliament that the family had been given a holiday to 'hush it up' following the child's death, they had the front cover ready to go. A complete blank page - what the government won't tell you - in small print - see inside for details. The government did actually tell us, later on the same morning, when the Premier read from a letter from the grandmother, outraged over the political point scoring, and vehemently denying that there had been any holiday paid for by the Department. The holiday had been arranged prior to the child's death (other children were involved)and the grandparents sought a refund for some of the fares after the child's death. This was given as part of normal emergency and bereavement relief funding. (I've had occasion to seek this kind of funding on behalf of others, myself)

The real pity of it is - that, coincidentally, a report was published into failures in the Community Welfare Department following the investigation of 30 odd deaths over the last 5 years. The West Australian in it's haste to personalise the attack against the Minister buried this story in the details. I'm sure we may get round yet to hearing about the problems within the Department - we haven't yet. But if we do I fear that any real debate will be squelched in the static surrounding this week's farrago.

The grandstanding by this newspaper and it's hectoring righteousness are poisoning the body politic of Western Australia. This latest blundering excuse for journalism merely demonstrates that the welfare of children is not an issue - only one thing matters - bringing down the Labour Government.
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Blogger brown wren said...

Hi Kyan.
You may want to have a look at
I think the community would benefit from some of your stories there.

9:07 pm  

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