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Sunday 3 January 2010

Broadsheet Watch – 4

Many years ago, the Times and Sunday Times were owned by Lord Thomson, and were both renowned for the quality of their journalism. Then, after a wearying battle with organised labour, Thomson sold the titles in 1981 to Rupert Murdoch, and the pressure on journalists to do more with less resource started in earnest. Nowadays, it is not hard to point up poor and slanted journalism in the Sunday Times, and today’s edition has a superb example.

Rupe’s supposedly upmarket troops are clearly under instruction to lay into the public sector: today’s article tells of this area having enjoyed a “golden age” under Labour, which of course is not the party that Rupe wants in power, hence the knocking copy. It links to other articles, one of which is prejudicially titled “The public sector starts at Number 1 Easy Street”, clearly meant to suggest that those so employed are enjoying a cushy lifestyle, while providing no evidence to support the contention.

Public sector workers are held, in today’s article, to be getting “bigger pay rises”, yet not one example is given. The average pay of public sector workers is compared with those in the private sector, but no comparison is made between similar jobs in the two sectors. Whether the figures are influenced by the public sector outsourcing low paid jobs is not even considered.

Pensions are, as ever, a favoured target, so the article compares some civil service pensions with some private sector ones, but fails to make the point that those employed in local government are not civil servants. Retirement ages are then covered, with one example given being local government workers – so the article is cherry picking: civil servants when it wants to talk pensions, then local government workers on retirement.

And only well into the article is the fact conceded that police officers are part of that public sector. Firefighters and soldiers – the latter, as ever, a body that the Murdoch press claims to champion – are not mentioned. Neither are all the front line staff who work in the NHS, including all those junior doctors that the press got so worked up about not long ago. As for the air traffic controllers who keep our skies safe – well, that’s apparently beyond Rupe and his upmarket troops.

Meanwhile, no justification is mustered for the headline: “Public sector pay races ahead in recession”. Attaboy Rupe – just keep making it up.

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