Election 2013 media panel

It’s all about the context

If you come from the school that believes provision of context is a defining characteristic of good journalism, then you will have been disappointed by the coverage of day one of the election campaign.

Let’s look at some quotes from yesterday in the context that was not provided. Abbott would not do a deal for power. “There’s a commitment that I want to give you…there will not be deals done with independents and minor parties under any political movement that I lead,” he said. But in the aftermath of the 2010 campaign he told rural independent Tony Windsor that while he was unwilling to part with his most precious gift everything else was on the table. “I would do anything to get that job, Tony, the only thing I wouldn’t do is sell my arse.” Has he changed his mind?

Rudd’s comments also lacked important context. The prime minister is a good campaigner because he is much better at proclaiming issues are vital than doing anything about them. He’s good at symbols, which is mostly sufficient in the rush of a campaign. Rudd himself has made this clear during his seven years of campaigning for the leadership, a campaign that was unrelenting whether he was leader or not.

“You, the Australian people, know me pretty well - warts and all,” Rudd smiled yesterday. The argument was that with him Australians understood what they were getting. They could trust him. But if Australians really knew Rudd he would not be leader. The media, in hot pursuit of a big story for the past three years, forgot to provide the facts: Rudd’s leadership was such a failure that few who knew the context would support him for prime minister.