This is the entirety of a letter that I wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald editor several days ago (it was not published):
I am disappointed by the lack of balance and accuracy in Michael Gawenda’s article “Senate fight about race a strain on southern comfort” (26 October 2006).
The Republican National Committee has produced and aired an ad depicting the Democratic challenger for a Tennessean Senate seat, Harold Ford, as someone who is in bed with the pornography industry (excuse the pun) and who is seduced by a white porn star. Gawenda’s notes that this sort of political advertising would “...shock even Australia’s seasoned political apparatchiks.”
Gawenda notes that the election is about “character”. Precisely. This is what the ad tries to address. The ad, among other things, mocks Ford’s policy position on the legal rights of illegal combatants in the War on Terror, his high tax policies and his dislike of US second amendment rights to possess firearms.
According to Gawenda, Ford is “handsome and charismatic” and wears “smart suits and two-colour shirts”. I suppose these are Gawenda’s benchmarks for “character”. On this basis, should we consider Ken Lay as an exemplar?
In an article about race and US politics, I also find it startling that Gawenda’s journalistic piece fails to report the “dirty tricks” perpetrated by the Democrats, particularly because of Gawenda’s extensive experience at covering US politics. A case in point is a Democratic TV ad funded by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee portraying a black Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia as a minstrel and referring to him as “Sambo”.
For the record, both ads were withdrawn. But Gawenda does not report that either.
So I was reading "The Inquirer" section of The Australian this morning. Geoff Elliott had almost one entire broadsheet page dedicated to covering the supposed racist smear against Harold Ford Jnr (can't find it online). This article again failed to mention the dirty racist smears being perpetrated by the Democrats in Election '06. It also failed to mention that the ad has been pulled or that the RNC (contrary to my implication above) has no control over the ad.
I'm not going to complain about the balance of Elliott's piece as it is not reporting, but opinion. But I would have thought that factual accuracy would still be a necessity. The World News/Opinion sections of the Australian need some serious looking over. First Chulov's significant errors and shifting accounts, now Elliotts mistakes.
Its good to see the Editorial teams of both major Australian newspapers up to the task of acting as Gatekeepers.