Thursday, October 11, 2007

Steve Lewis: Barely concealing his venom

by Brian Arnell

Steve Lewis of News Limited publications, the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph, barely conceals his venom while using unnamed sources, unsubstantiated allegations and loaded language to discredit Julia Gillard.

His Herald Sun headline is “Fighting fire with burning ambition” and The Daily Telegraph headline is “Left to own devices”. The lead for both articles is identical, “On a recent night in Canberra, as the wine and chatter flowed, one of Australia's most powerful business figures offered a frank assessment of Julia Gillard. ‘It’s her values,’ he said, barely concealing the venom.”

This use of unnamed sources continues throughout both articles. The only attributed comments come from Bill Heffernan, “deliberately barren” and from Gillard herself. There are four direct quotes from anonymous sources in the Herald Sun article, three in The Daily Telegraph and none of them complimentary.

There are also four paragraphs with references to the opinions of “detractors”, “colleagues” and “critics”. There is only one “reference” to the opinions of “supporters”,the Herald Sun tempering its version with the pejorative term, “political star”.

The articles in both papers are virtually identical, apart from some notable substitutions and additions in Lewis’s descriptions of Gillard's actions and character. The language used in both versions is heavily loaded against Gillard. Interestingly, the descriptions of Gillard are even more pejorative in the Herald Sun than in The Daily Telegraph.

These changes are interesting because they clearly demonstrate the agendas of both Lewis and his proprietor. If Lewis’s impressions of Gillard were genuine, why would they not appear in both versions of the article? It is curious that the more disparaging Herald Sun version is available online while The Daily Telegraph version is not.

Below are two examples with differences between versions in bold.

But her detractors - and there are many in business, Liberal Party and within Labor ranks - portray her as a ruthless operator and good hater. - Herald Sun

But her detractors, and there are many in business, the Liberal Party and within Labor ranks, portray her as a ruthless operator. - The Daily Telegraph

And with that, Julia Gillard shoots off to yet another meeting, planning and scheming for the coming election. - Herald Sun

And with that, Julia Gillard shoots off to yet another meeting, planning for the coming election. - The Daily Telegraph

In addition to his use of anonymous sources and loaded language to discredit Gillard, Lewis makes numerous unsubstantiated allegations and fails to place his own and other's assertions in context with known facts. Throughout, he does not discuss policy.

An example of Lewis making unsubstantiated allegations is his claim that “Gillard’s ambitious tendencies have been well documented”. He provides no evidence, but this allegation is interesting because until recently this was a common claim made against Kevin Rudd. In a March 5, 2007 interview on the 7:30 Report, Rudd said, “I think for a long, long time, Kerry, many people in the media and elsewhere have described me as 'ambitious'. I don't think that's something which I'm Robinson Crusoe on in politics.”

An example of Lewis’s failure to provide appropriate context is in relation to the allegation that Gillard is a “hard-core Leftie”, “very Left” and “hard-Left”. Even a cursory internet search reveals that Gillard belongs to the moderate Ferguson Left faction. This does not necessarily disprove the allegation against Gillard, but it is a significant known fact that places both the allegation and Gillard’s quoted defence in context.

Lewis ends his articles about Gillard with, “It’s something she is clearly in love with, whatever people think of her values”. Lewis clearly loves discrediting people using unnamed sources, loaded language and unsubstantiated allegations, whatever people think of his values.

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