AJ blasts sloppy ABC

So, here’s the lede:

Howard blasts ‘sloppy’ Latham

Prime Minister John Howard has launched a scathing attack on Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham, saying he is sloppy with the truth and he wants to expose him.

But the Labor Party is unfazed by Mr Howard’s criticism.

At the time of writing, that’s what’s visible on the ABC’s main page. What are the immediate conclusions you can draw from that? One is that Howard is attacking. Another is that he wants to expose Mark Latham, but presumably hasn’t yet. The Labor party, meanwhile, are reacting to this attack with calm aplomb. What attributes do you thus associate with whom? Howard gets “divisive” and “ineffectual”. Labor/Latham get “victim” and “stoic”. Note also that Howard makes claims, while the Labor party is unfazed.

Note also the complete lack of information. What’s Latham being sloppy about? Is Howard right to make those accusations? Or is Labor right to be unconcerned? Let’s look at the story. Or perhaps I should say, the “story”:

Mr Howard accused Mr Latham of being “sloppy with the truth” in his speech he delivered yesterday at the ALP National Conference.

“This man, when you go below the glib generalisations, hasn’t got a grip on some of the basic facts,” he said.

Mr Howard says Mr Latham’s address was full of mistakes on issues such as the economy and unemployment, and that Mr Latham “doesn’t tell it as it is”.

Okay, great. We already knew Howard was criticising Latham. Were they just general issues about the economy and unemployment? Because there’s a lot there that we don’t understand well, and there’s a lot of room for legitimate differences of opinion. But if you want details, you won’t find them in the ABC story, which ends with some more, unrelated criticism from Howard, also devoid of any specifics:

“He has an interesting put and take attitude to the past, whenever something’s embarrassing about something he said in the past such as his attacks on George Bush or his attacks on female journalists he says, look this election is about the future, yet when it suits him he likes to talk a lot about aspects of his own past,” he said.

and some replies that are equally voided of any substance:

ALP president Carmen Lawrence said that was “a bit rich”, coming from Mr Howard.

“My God, he should look at a mirror someday, really that’s amazing, that’s desperate, let me tell you,” she said.

Mr Latham also brushed off the criticism.

Also, yay for ALP bigwigs that sound like a primary schoolkid who’s been insulted, and can’t think of an original comeback. Next thing she’ll be doing Peewee Herman impressions: “I know you are, but what am I?”

So, left completely uninformed by the ABC, let’s try ninemsn, which is running the same story. Their lede?

Latham sloppy with truth: PM

Opposition Leader Mark Latham is sloppy with the truth and has a dangerous tendency to blame his staff, Prime Minister John Howard says.

What’s your impression from that? Seems fairly straightforward to me: Latham is bad, if you can believe what Howard says. Can we believe what Howard says? Let’s see what that is:

Mr Latham had said 370,000 Australians were long-term unemployed.

But the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for December found the figure was 117,200 – the lowest since September 1990, Mr Howard said.

Mr Latham had made a totally erroneous claim on ABC radio on Friday morning that the government’s proposed Medicare safety net would cost billions, Mr Howard said.

The real cost was $250-to-$260 million over four years, Mr Howard said.

“This man, when you go below the glib generalisations, hasn’t got a grip on some of the basic facts,” Mr Howard said.

Also justified, with a couple of examples, is the claim he blames staffers too much. It’s disappointing that that the rule of three wasn’t followed: if you’re going to make a general claim, you should always offer three examples: one’s happenstance, two’s a coincidence, three’s a trend, and four is just gloating.

The Sydney Morning Herald is running the same AAP story as ninemsn; News Ltd appears not to have picked up on it at all yet.

Bias in the ABC’s news reporting is forgivable, but having their headline story contain nothing but fluff, when even the AAP can do better, is utterly disgraceful.

UPDATE 2004/01/30:

Oh, an addendum. If we look at the ABC’s “offbeat” stories, we have this lovely one demonising the US State Dept for changing a typeface. Yeesh.

There are only three exceptions to the draconian new typographical rules: telegrams, treaty materials prepared by the State Department’s legal affairs office and documents drawn up for the president’s signature, it said.

The memorandum offered no explanation for the exceptions, leaving foreign service officers to speculate as to whether the White House, US treaty partners and telegram readers are not yet able to handle the change.

We’ve got “draconian rules”, exceptions for the president, lack of explanations, and important sections of the government too incompetent to deal with even a minor change like this.

This one’s from the “Agence France-Presse”; along with a fair chunk of the ABC’s reporting on America.

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