Outrageously Bad Reporting

Outrageously Bad Reporting

Don’t get me wrong, I read The Age (digital version) virtually every day and always find one or more well researched and written articles. These provide insight into world and local happenings which make me think, inform me and often prompt a post or other sharing response.

Authorities toughen laws for Victorian drivers
Authorities toughen laws for Victorian drivers. Photo: Ken Robertson — The Age

But in today’s edition there is an article of mind numbing incompetence. Luckily for the writer, it is unattributed which probably means it was written by some PR hack with an axe to grind and has no place in the newspaper.

The first paragraph reads

Our mobile phone obsession has led authorities to toughen laws for Victorian drivers, amid fears texting and tweeting will lead to tragedy

Last time I checked “laws” are made by governments by way of parliament. Which “authorities” have the power to pass laws?

What fears? Who’s fears? It seems that in the world of The Age editors the unspecified fears of unidentified authorities are a sound basis for laws being made by unspecified institutions which profoundly affect their readers.

Remember too that the new laws will apply under a regime where you will be presumed guilty on the word of the reporting officer. And there is no room for degrees of guilt, even if you contest the charge in front of a magistrate. Thus, talking on a phone for 5 seconds while stopped in traffic is treated as the same offence as talking on the phone while travelling at 110 kph in heavy traffic – while it is raining.

And it gets worse. The article ends with this …

The changes will be submitted for approval this week.

Submitted to who?

And before wrapping up the following statement is made

Under the mobile phone crackdown, P-plate drivers will be banned from using their phones altogether.


  • So non P-plate drivers can use their phones?
  • What if the car is stopped?
  • Turned off?
  • On a private driveway?
  • What if the device is an iPod or iPad – both can be used for messaging, or even for VOIP or video calls, but they are not phones

This is sloppy, lazy and irresponsible reporting in the extreme.

Just a couple of questions The Age might have posed to whoever issued the Press Release

  • what is the evidence that the current penalties have not deterred the antisocial behaviour?
  • what is the evidence that heavier penalties will have any impact on behaviour?
  • what are the justifications for a greater than 50% increase in the financial penalty?
  • why not a 40% increase? Or a 60% increase?
  • what evidence exists that drivers are breaking the current law?
  • if there is evidence that the law is being flouted, what is being done to enforce it?
  • who are the “authorities” increasing the penalties?
  • to whom are the authorities recommending the dramatic increase in penalties?
  • what are the views of independent experts on the recommendations?
  • how do the current and proposed penalties compare with those in other states?
  • what is the view of the Minister responsible for motoring laws?
  • what are the views of the appropriate shadow minister?

I could go on. In an age where Governments seem to be of the view that they operate in a vacuum, with no need to justify their actions, our only defence against incompetence, stupidity and entrenched party political beliefs is a strong and rigorous press.

In this instance The Age has let us, and themselves down. Badly.

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