Election 2013 media panel

The outcry over ‘that’ front page – decline of objectivity or a way to get media coverage?

The uproar in some circles over the Daily Telegraph’s front page, telling voters in no uncertain terms to dump the Rudd government, has focused attention once more on the issue of objectivity in journalism.

It would have hardly come as a surprise to anyone that News Corp’s flagship tabloid would favour an Abbott government. And by saying so right from the start, at least the paper was open about its editorial leaning. As, of course, was the Australian Financial Review, albeit in a slightly less dramatic – and less noticed – way.

Recently, independent journalist Antony Loewenstein called for journalists to display their political biases openly, in an effort for more transparency in the media and to regain people’s trust. He argued that objectivity is a construct impossible to achieve.

In fact, objectivity and non-partisan reporting as journalistic ideals are an Anglo-Saxon invention of the late 19th century, partly in an effort to separate journalists from public relations, but also to offend fewer people and therefore increase the number of potential readers. Previously, journalism was very much a partisan occupation. And in global comparison, the non-partisan model in journalism is actually an anomaly.

Australian newspapers have always recommended a particular party to their readers. But the partisan approach adopted by the Daily Telegraph, so far out from the election, will make for interesting analysis of its news coverage over the next six weeks.

So Loewenstein has got his way on this occasion, but whether the Tele’s declaration will lead to increased trust – or indeed readership – remains to be seen.

Or perhaps there’s a much simpler reason here.

Could it be that all this is simply a ruse to gain more media exposure for the Tele? After all, in today’s saturated media environment, it seems to be more about who shouts the loudest, and with a dramatic front page, the tabloid made sure people were talking about it. Twitter was abuzz over that front page, and numerous media outlets covered it, even overseas.

It’s all about brand recognition, especially in an ever so difficult economic print climate. So if this was more about getting the brand noticed than telling people what they already knew, it seems to have worked just fine for the Tele.