Perhaps it's a pity The Australian chose last Monday to run a column by Giles Auty, its former art critic. It was the last day of my cut-price subscription to the Oz, and I was still tossing up whether to renew for another six months.
I never really enjoyed Auty's art criticism – it sometimes seemed a touch supercilious – but I hadn't realised he also claimed economic expertise.
Well, actually, he doesn't. In the column titled, “Neo-liberal greed did not cause recession”  he jeered at Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and praised former conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
From there, he merely downloaded the groupthink conservative line that blames the recession on the US Democrats for having forced banks to lend to home-buyers who would not repay the loans [read, feckless blacks].
Nothing new in that claim – the Oz's hard-right columnist Janet Albrechtsen plucked the same claim from the internet and ran it in her column last October 8  (and she was a bit slow – other right-wing commentators had run it a few weeks earlier).
Still, The Australian's editors decided to run all this stale old stuff again last Monday. Why – because they wanted to ram home, once again, the conservative point of view?
. . . I only wanted to suggest that the Oz – which is, I believe, already Australia's best newspaper – would be a better newspaper if it reported differing points of view in its news stories.
The Oz editors do not see themselves as biased. The first sentence of [their earlier anti-blogger editorial], “The measure of good journalism is objectivity and a fearless regard for truth”, would, I believe, describe the way those editors see their performance.
So when the Oz reports only one side of an argument, it's not because the editors are biased. The editors know children should learn to read by phonics alone – they know every other approach is discredited. Me? I'd like to make up my own mind by evaluating the differing arguments. I'd like the news reports to lay out those arguments, even briefly.
Similarly, the Oz's editors know Keynesian-style counter-cyclical government investment is wrong. They know fiscal stimulus will not help ease a recession. They know the Federal Government's stimulus package will not save jobs, so why waste money?
They know man-made climate change is bullshit . . .
Why read The Australian, then? Because its reporting remains strong. You won't find “churnalism” – the soft, unquestioning repetition of material, often supplied by self-interested sources, misrepresented as news. The Oz deserved the praise it won for its coverage of the Haneef affair, for example, and of the Northern Territory Intervention.
This week there's been a more harmonious mood at the breakfast table – Merry does prefer the SMH.
In my previous post [I wrote], I said that if Media did not publish something about McNicoll's sacking, it would damage the reputation of the newspaper and of the section.Think about it. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Media's staff complied with an explicit, or an implied but clearly understood, direction from management or a senior editor not to publish anything about McNicoll.
I have no doubt that if McNicoll had worked for the Sydney Morning Herald or The Age, and his employer “disappeared” him as The Australian did, the Oz would have reported it with relish.
With relish? Yes indeed. The Australian keeps up a regular sneering and jeering at its rivals, to a level which seems just plain childish. It does more to diminish its own standing than it does damage to the SMH and The Age.
So I've let my Oz subscription lapse. But I must confess – I won't stop reading the Oz. The Australian has a well-laid-out online edition, while the SMH's website is a bit messy, and often it's dumbed down. So we're better off getting the printed SMH thrown into the flowerbed each morning.