Is there an editor in the house?

smh trump teaser june 23It’s tough for Fairfax’s Paul McGeough, even harder in many ways than for the competent journalists and sub-editors who have been shown the door as their industry collapsed about them. McGeough and his gig as a US-based foreign correspondent have survived, for now at any rate, while the bureaux that once operated in New York, Washington, London and elsewhere have been shuttered. So there he is, sending back copy to the clickbait kiddies who run the Age and SMH websites, with no adults left on the premises to save the poor man from himself.

Take today, for example, which sees the SMH homepage giving pride of place to his latest dispatch. Atop this item is a screen grab reproducing how it was bannered. Click on the link and you get this story purporting to be an accurate account of Donald Trump’s latest address. In the old days, when newsroom children compiled the shipping notices, fetched their elders’ take-away meals and wrote colour stories, if they were lucky, about dogs that wear trousers and other human-interest wotnots, the processing of such a report would have passed through an institution know as the “back bench”. This where seasoned hands, men and women who knew a thing or two about life and the world and, yes, journalism too, would pick through the submitted words, spot the errors and inconsistencies and fire off notes to authors asking for clarifications.

Obviously, going by today’s McGeough offering, if the SMH still has a back bench it must be sitting in the laneway out back and waiting for the next hard-rubbish collection. Forget the one-eyed perspctive, we’ll get to that in a tick. Meanwhile, just look at the headline and blurb reproduced above.

To “wipe the floor” is generally accepted to mean a crushing and undisputed, all-points victory. Yet the lines beneath assert that same alleged victory was nothing but “wild unsubstantiated allegations”. Apparently, along with the back bench, the sort-of-editors who remain at Fairfax are interested in dictionaries only for their potential to be re-cycled into carbon-fighting organic mulch.

As to the story itself, one can only imagine the barrage of questions and queries that would, in better days, have been flying back across the Pacific.  Such a note would have gone something like this:

Hi, Paul. Few points that need clearing up:

1/ You say “unsubstantiated allegations”.

Could you be specific and tell us what they are? I’ve been checking and most of what he says doesn’t seem at odds with known facts.

2/ You say he delivered “a general slagging of migrants – who he claimed were killing ‘thousands’ of Americans.”

Well I’ve been checking that as well and what Trump says seems about right. One-quarter of inmates in care of the US Bureau of Prisons are non-citizens, the overwhelming majority from Mexico. You can look here if you don’t believe me. Oh, and there’s this site too. And that wouldn’t include illegal aliens in state penal systems. There are 250,000-odd of those.

As to how many people they kill, the US Government Accounting Office says 25,064 illegal aliens were arrested, convicted and incarcerated for homicide over a seven-year period up until 2009.  That would make an average of more than 3000 every year, so it looks like Trump has this one right. Stats are here if you don’t believe me, look on page 21.

This brings up the next query, which is in the following paragraph.

3/ You quote Trump as saying:

“Hillary Clinton who already has the blood of so many on her hands, is now announcing that she’s willing to put each and every one of our lives in harm’s way – an open door policy to criminals and terrorists to enter our country…she needs to go to prison to pay for the crimes she has already committed against this country.”

Problem is, Trump was actually quoting the mother of a police officer killed by an illegal alien, and I really think we need to mention that. As written, it sounds like it’s all Trump’s brimstone and thunder, when they are actually the words of a woman with good cause to oppose undocumented immigration. Her policeman son was killed by an illegal migrant, as I said, and his killer was then allowed to stay in the country. USA Today has a story about the case here.  If you don’t believe me, the text of Trump’s speech is here in case you haven’t seen it, with that quote clearly marked as such.

Anyway, if you could address these points ASAP, that would be good. The SMH is a journal of record and we wouldn’t want to be publishing anything that was misleading or written with partisan bias. That’s the reason, by the way, I’ll have to cut your asides in brackets . They make it look as if you’ve got a barrow to push.

Regards,

etc etc

Once upon a time, such a note would have lobbed in McGeough’s inbox in short order, but no longer. Competent editors? Who needs ’em when journalism has been reduced to the naked pursuit of clicks punctuated by opinion presented as reporting.

And for that matter, who needs foreign correspondents? Thanks to the web, the curious can watch Trump’s attack on Hillary via the link below and never have to spare a thought for what one of the gatekeepers of yesteryear believes is all readers really need to know.

— roger franklin

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