There was a time when, even though left leaning, The Age stood for clear reporting, and the best of liberal values, in the sense of being fair and open.
That has not been the case for many years.
The Age has become more and more rigidly dogmatic, biased in its ‘factual’ reporting of political matters, and resistant to the expression of alternative (conservative) views in its opinion pages.
So it is no surprise to see that in the last quarter, its circulation has fallen by 4.5%.
Other print dailies are also experiencing declines. Some of that decline is because of the growing use of internet news sources. Newspapers are expensive, and hard work by comparison.
But why is The Age suffering more than most?
I can only answer for myself. I used to buy it reasonably regularly. But I no longer do, for the same reason I now very rarely watch the ABC.
It is not that there are views expressed there I disagree with. I usually read the appalling Monthly, and the just as appalling Eureka Street. I want to know what people who see things differently from me are thinking, and I often learn from them. Those journals are often wrong, but they are generally honest.
It is rather that both The Age and the ABC claim to be news organisations, and claim to be balanced. They are neither. Both use creative editing to frame news stories to match their political agendas in ways that mislead or distort.
I don’t like that. I don’t like being lied to.
Two things need to happen to return the ABC and The Age to respectability, and to higher circulation, viewing, and reading figures.
First, there needs to be a real commitment to honest factual reporting.
This might include, for example, noting the claims of Julia Gillard’s minders that she was speaking ‘off the cuff’ at her campaign launch, and her own implication that this was so, and then reporting that this was not so, and questioning why Julia and her minders might wish to deceive the media and the public about this.
No, it’s not going to happen.
The second is that there needs to be room in both The Age and the ABC for expression of alternate views. The one-sided badgering of Liberal party politicians on the ABC, and the stacking of panels and audiences, is so common that an exception would be newsworthy. The Age has not one conservative columnist, and conservative opinions on the letters pages are so scarce as to be invisible.
This policy of exclusion doesn’t win votes, readers, watchers even amongst left wingers.
Most Labor voters I know are fair-minded people, and happy to hear and consider views other than their own. Being wrong doesn’t make them stupid.
So dear Age editors, if you need a conservative commentator, and you do, I am willing to consider offers.