Newspaper Editor at work: a call for change to journalists’ behaviour becomes a call for MPs to be ethical.

I have noticed that the media now mainly quote (or sound-bite) people without giving background facts or historical context.  I object to this, as many of the consumers of modern media haven’t the energy or training to do this for every factoid that gets spread.

Wanting journalistic responsibility, wanting facts over factoids, I wrote to a newspaper demanding action.  The letter was published – sort of.  I give both versions here.

This gives a resource for English and Society & Environment teachers:  How could the letter be improved? (See below.)  How could the letter be shortened while keeping its intent? What changes have been made in the published version?  How does the new meaning compare with the original?  What is, and what should be, the duty of reporters and editors in the media when it comes to reporting factoids?  And when editing letters?

What I wrote:  904 characters

There is much reporting of Mr Abbott’s claim to a “mandate”. Mandate: in politics,the authority  to carry out a policy, seen as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.

When reporting Mr Abbotts claims, journalists should add that, by the intent of our constitution, the candidates which won election on a policy against to Mr Abbott’s have the mandate to oppose his efforts, and also have the ethical duty so to do.  Also, they should remind their audience that the Senate system was designed to let people who liked part of the major winner’s policies elect senators to block the parts they dislike.

They should do this EVERY TIME the Coalition claim that the others should cave in to their “mandate.”

Any Green or Labour MPs or Senators who vote against the policies in their election platforms will be betraying the mandate the voters who put them into parliament.

What they printed:  608 characters

There is much reporting of Mr Abbott’s claim to a “mandate” (n: In politics, authority to carry out a policy, seen as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election).

It should be added that the candidates elected on a policy against Mr Abbott’s have a mandate to oppose his efforts, and have the ethical duty to do so.  Additionally, the Senate system was designed to let people who liked part of the major winner’s policies elect senators to block the parts they disliked.  They should do this every time the Coalition partners claim that the others should cave in to their “mandate”.

(I see many errors.  I’m sure they weren’t there when I typed the email – but then, I didn’t do a hardcopy.   Another point to raise in English:  do students find they can proofread beter on paper?)

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