World’s least liveable “quality” broadsheets?

An earlier version of this story in the Fairfax press seemed to be trying to beat up a spurious Aussie versus Kiwi stoush by highlighting some obscure survey purporting to show that Auckland was in the world’s top 10 most liveable cities whereas Sydney and Melbourne both missed out.  The rewritten version shifts the emphasis and tries to whip up Sydney-Melbourne rivalry instead:

Sydney is a little less liveable than last year, but it is still better than Melbourne, which in turn is better than Perth, which is way better than Adelaide.

However, Fairfax completely ignored two similar and much more prominent surveys that came up with very different results.  The Independent‘s survey has Melbourne at no. 9 and Sydney at no.11 with no NZ city anywhere in the top 20, while The Economist has Melbourne at no. 2 and Perth, Adelaide and Sydney all in the top 10, again with no NZ city in the top 10.

What does it all mean?

  • Surveys like this are completely worthless;
  • The Fairfax media has gone so tabloid that it too is just about worthless for anyone looking for serious journalism.

PS – Looking more generally at the SMH online front page as it stands at time of writing this post, the “top news” area consists of a photo feature story about an actor appearing nude in Sex and the City and stories about a drug raid in Sydney’s suburbs; a speeding drunk driver in Canberra;  a “deceased” organ donor who came back to life; and a promotional puff piece for the Apple iPhone.  Compare that with the lead political items in today’s Missing Link, I modestly suggest.  It shows that there actually are lots of more important (and more interesting IMO) stories than the ones the SMH chooses to feature.  I also suggest most readers with a mental age over about 13 would agree.

Update – The ABC was even worse.  It republished the story on this evening’s TV news and simply ripped off the Fairfax story without checking it, sticking unimaginatively with the Aussie versus Kiwi angle.  Neither ABC nor Fairfax bothered even to do a basic Google seach, which would have revealed that The Independent (a vastly more prominent outlet than the obscure consultancy firm promoting itself with brilliant success with the study that received the publicity) had issued a similar survey only 2 days earlier which came up with completely different results, or that the even more prominent The Economist had published a similar survey only a couple of months ago.  The Australian is actually more rigorous and serious-minded than either Fairfax or ABC these days, but is in turn besmirched by Murdoch’s willingness to push his personal agenda through editorial policy. 

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Richard Green
Richard Green
13 years ago

I think a strong element in the tabloiding of the fairfax press is a desire to shift towards the internet. In the eyes of Fairfax management, the best way to exploit a boundless medium is to increase page views by stirring up pointless indignation from bored office workers. A stupid Sydney-Melbourne rivalry story can pick of page views for the SMH from Melbourne as well as Sydney and, better yet, if a mark is enticed to post on a “your say” function they’ll keep coming back. “Have the *insert irritating Tim Baileyism for Victorians* reacted to my cunning insult about the Yarra and lauding of the Opera House? Better refresh!”.

We more or less have a 24 hour a day afternoon paper.

Maybe the extension of privacy invading data mining tools will mean a less crude instrument than page views for advertising rates, and subsequently better journalism to attract readers marketers want…or something.

But I fear this is unlikely.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
13 years ago

And then you can go even more downmarket to the Daily Telegraph whose screaming front-page headline is about Belinda Neal who apparently needs to resign from parliament for getting a red card in a soccer match.

Must have ended the political aspirations of Kevin Muscat. Disproves that old adage of soccer being for sissies.

Pavlov's Cat
13 years ago

And of course it’s also a good excuse for some gratuitous Adelaide-trashing.

*Goes outside to sit in the winter sunshine*

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

I dunno if most readers of this site would agree that my mental age is above 13 but fwiw I agree – so maybe you can state that claim even more broadly.

Lloyd
Lloyd
13 years ago

Earlier today the SMH Online had as a headline “Rudd caught in Dalai Storm” with a half page colour photo, Rudd on one side, the Dalai Lama on the other. The linked article was about nothing of the sort. It amounted to the following.

“It is sad that Mr Rudd is feeling pressure from China,” one supporter, who did not wish to be named, said.
“Mr Rudd has lost some dignity, I think, by bowing to them.”

Some ‘storm’. Talk about piss weak appalling journalism. They took it down soon after I emailed a furious complaint, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

The rest of the day we’ve been graced with the “Butt” Sex and the City story, now the “Hedge Fund”.

It certainly puts us in the running for the most sophisticated newspaper in the world…..

Laura
13 years ago

Still, you can’t use the internet as a biodegradable under-mulch weed suppresser.

The Worst of Perth
13 years ago

Fairfax’s online version for Perth was launched yesterday. Not the challenge to The West Australian’s pitiful online version we were hoping for.
http://theworstofperth.com/2008/06/10/fax-it-west/

Niall
13 years ago

I only read SMH because the Courier Mail is even worse.

Andrew Leigh
13 years ago

Their are revealed preference alternatives to these odd ‘expert driven’ rankings.

Andrew Leigh
13 years ago

Their, of course, should be there. Not that it’s either here or their.

FDB
FDB
13 years ago

“especially in places where there are still formal legal sanctions as there are in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries especially”

I’d have thought most such places aren’t in the running anyway, due to exactly this sort of social backwardness.

Andrew Leigh
13 years ago

Ken, I agree there are empirical problems, but the core concept strikes me as pretty sensible: since we can’t disentangle good jobs from amenities, we can’t look at where the rich choose to live as a proxy for city quality. But gay men have more disposable income simply by virtue of their family structure, so if they choose a place, it must mean the amenities are better. In other words, gay men tend to value Sydney (sun + surf) over Melbourne (lattes + libraries).

Like you, I place a high value on being able to cycle to work. But I’m comfortable with the notion that the majority of Australians have different preferences over cities than me (were it otherwise, they’d have to close Northbourne Avenue for the Mardi Gras).

FDB
FDB
13 years ago

I note with interest a correlation between a large gay male population and a large single female population. Maybe there’s more to this than I thought! ;)