thief of time

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Getting it Right

I read a bit of a biography on Mark Latham, our newish Labour leader, in the paper today—not today’s paper, because that would mean I’d actually had time to keep up-to-date with the news-- but the Monday paper, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with the quality of some of the article.

Quite frankly, if you have to resort to quotes from a former neighbour who declines to be identified, you really have to question why the quote should be admitted to the article at all. How much credence can you give someone who’s remembering the child and his place in the family in relation to the others from thirty odd years ago?

Many, many years ago, when I was young and took others as they came, I knew someone who was very outgoing and decided in her opinions and not shy about sharing them with you. I would listen to her detailed analyses of friends and family and their relationships, and would accept what she said about them, admiring how she could always see under the surface, no matter how these people liked to present themselves. Even if I didn’t know her hapless examples at all, or only slightly, I would soon know enough about them to form an impression of what they were like, so vivid were the descriptions she’d give of them.

One day she told me that she knew how I felt about a couple of people we both knew and I immediately felt a bit taken aback, because I’d been very careful not to say much about either one of them and I felt ashamed that she’d been able to read me so easily. She then proceeded to outline my feelings, but she had them exactly opposite to the true state of affairs and I was quite surprised, because I’d taken her as the fount of all knowledge for some time.

At that point, the first little niggle of a doubt about her omniscience was introduced and since then, I’m still pretty naive and usually try to accept people as they present until they prove otherwise, but I do take what most people tell me with a big grain of salt and I’m afraid I take what I read in the papers with an even bigger grain.

PS The usual disclaimers about being politically uninvolved in either party go without saying (though I guess I’ve just said it).


  • I've been cautious in my assessment of print media in Sydney, limited as I have been to the Fairfax and Murdoch options, but largely because I've wanted to be sure I'm reading enough and well enough to make a valid judgment in the first place. In the end, I stick mainly to the SMH, but my impression is that the general news is gossipy, the business news reads like sports pages do back home, and the sports news is damn near unreadable unless you've been brought up in a household that has been devoted to that highly rarified culture for generations.

    Since my main interest in reading the paper is for the general news, it takes considerable effort sometimes to read past the first paragraph or three, wherein the reporter spends so much time setting the "tone" of story, or setting up a punch line, before getting to the news itself, that the story is nearly pointless by the time you find out what's being reported. Also, headlines are misleading, editorial comments are presented as facts, and the spin is ham-handed.

    As for the on-line versions, well, bad punctuation cannot be excused by the medium, and neither can poor grammar or syntax. If I see one more column where the journalist has forgotten how to use an apostrophe, I may have to stop reading the news entirely. Given the state of television news, this would lead to utter ignorance.

    By Blogger Gregory, at July 15, 2004 at 10:59 a.m.  

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