November 29, 2004

Horse 242 - P-Plate Drivers... and The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph has a lot to answer for; as it is the highest circulation newsprint media in the country, it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to objectivity in its reporting. Lets just look at the last 5 days shall we?

Every day last week, the Telegraph ran photographs of smashed high performance vehicles with the following headlines:

NOT AGAIN, He wasn't allowed to drive it, STOP THIS CARNAGE, P-ATHETIC, BLUE-P-RINT.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Telegraph has actually managed to splash only photos of 4 accidents across 9 days of newspapers, they have conviniently forgotten to mention that in all of these photographs not a single P-Plate is displayed, and not a single Provisional Licence holder was involved. Also interesting is that the speeds in the accidents are as follows:

08:50pm Mon Wyoming - 156km/h
09:00pm Wed Minchinbury - 118km/h
11:30pm Thu Baulkham Hills - 107km/h
04:00pm Fri Bringelly - 124km/h

Three of the vehicles were stolen and all of them were travelling in excess of 60km/h over the speed limit. These photographs are shown in the same articles extolling the virtues of either a curfew or limiting the types of cars that P-Platers can drive. Sure a picture paints a thousand words, but all of these thousand words are the wrong story.

In the same newspaper on Friday (which has also been conviniently forgotten) are the actual road toll stats published by the RTA for year to date to Thursday:
471 deaths occured on NSW roads from 01/01/04 to 24/11/04
129 deaths occured as a result of a stolen vehicle causing accident
99 deaths occured as a result of an unlicenced causing accident
14 deaths occured with a P-Plate driver

14! 14 in 471 equates to less than 3% of all fatalities. Which doesn't quite add up to the opinion they are trumpeting. Now I'm not about to enter a moral argument over whether P-Platers should or should not be given the rights to drive high-powered vehicles or even curfews*, but it seems to me like the Telegraph have taken a sensationalist view with the sole purpose of selling newspapers.

I think it's perhaps fair to say that most people don't read their newspapers that carefully or check them against previous issues.This comes after a wave of nearly 4 weeks of bashing the NSW state government over the issues of railway services and hospital waiting queues. So then, why the sudden change of tune? Two Reasons spring to mind.
1. There is a discussion paper on the subject being tabulated before the house this morning, and Carl Scully has given News Ltd exclusive reportage rights.
2. The NSW Journalism Awards which just happen to be administered by the Premier's Office close at the end of this week. Perhaps a late volley of flattery will sway the judges for the awards?

Whatever the case, I do not trust the Telegraph as far as I can kick it. Not when in reality their only motives are selling advert space and newspapers - and doing that by any means necessary. It's all just a case of "spin" and media manipulation at its finest.

*For the record I think that ALL drivers should be tested ever 3 years.


Ricky said...

As the architect of The Daily Telegraph's P-plate campaign, I'd like to comment.
It was done because more young drivers die on Australian roads than any other developed country bar France.
At the start of the campaign, they were dying at the rate of one every six days in NSW alone. Now it's every 11 days - meaning the death toll has almost halved.
It is a misconception that we sought a curfew, we did not. The hundreds of young drivers and experts we talked to before launching the campaign said they would not support it.
They did, however, support limiting the power of cars and restricting the number of passengers they carry after committing an offence, which are both now law as a result.
Note this: I personally spent a day with 25 young drivers who told me that 4 of their friends had died in P-plate crashes. And 17 of those 25 had had an accident in the previous six months. A year later when I went to see them again, two of them had died in car accidents.
You say the campaign was sensationalist.
A 200km/h crash which kills three young people - one of whom was pregnant - is pretty sensational.
And all the drivers involved in the accidents you mention were P-platers.
But most troublesome of all for me, is your comment about our perceived lack of "objectivity in reporting".
All the details in the reports are factual, yet you appear to be suggesting that a newspaper exists to be a record of history rather than being entitled to have an opinion.
If a newspaper is not to have a view on a topic which is killing more young people in its region than cancer and drugs combined, then that paper should consign itself to history.
It is the vanilla flavour of much of our so-called quality media's coverage that is leading readers - especially young ones - to desert them in droves.
The savvy, intelligent and informed are going elsewhere to voice and hear views - many into blogs such as this one.
Without question, I view the DT's job is to fire and inspire debate and to protect those closest to its heart - the people of its community.
If we fail to do this we are failing them.
(And as much as I would love the DT to be the best-selling paper in Australia, it's not. The Herald Sun in Melbourne just pips us :o)
Thanks for the soapbox - Ricky

Rollo said...

My official reply is here: