Burwood & The Media

Stephen Mayne
July 30, 2010

07 December 1999 Stephen Mayne Published December 7, 1999 Burwood has been one of the strangest by-election's Australia has ever seen and the media's coverage of it has varied considerably.

With claim and counter claim about who is throwing the most mud, the media has largely ignored the issues specific to the electorate which are considerable.

The name change of part of Burwood to Camberwell was a hot issue locally but no-one in the media pointed out how both major parties cynically embraced it to win votes in Burwood. Similarly, John Thwaites' planning announcement was timed specifically for the Burwood by-election but the media did not pick up on the significance of how his policy of imposing more restrictions on everything within 7kms of the GPO was a policy backflip AND bad for the councils covering Burwood.

The Herald Sun has remained studiously above the serious issue of politics since the referendum. When all other media ran the issue of Lana McLean's claims she was both a Flemington girl and Burwood girl, the Herald Sun did not run a word in a 104-page paper. Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden has maintained his ban on this website and limits the paper to the bare minimum of coverage of my Burwood candidacy. For instance, the HUN was the only paper not to mention me in the context of the Labor fundraiser. Their readers therefore have no idea how this remarkable 850-strong guest list became public. To its credit, only the Herald Sun got Steve Bracks' late-night personal explanation into the morning paper correcting his earlier denial of taxpayers funds going into the Labor fundraiser.

The Age has provided the most coverage of Burwood, exploring the issue of Lana McLean's disputes with the Commonwealth Bank and her neighbour more fully than anyone else. However, like the rest of the media, it has not adequately covered the local issues or profiled all of the candidates.

The Australian has also given Burwood a strong run, reaffirming its position as a good alternative to The Age if you're looking for solid coverage of Victorian politics. Despite losing hard-hitting state political reporter Michael Magazanik to ABC Television, Adelaide girl Misha Schubert has stepped up to the mark.

3AW's shock jocks have maintained their ban on this website and me, despite the newsworthiness of the campaign. A couple of attempts to speak to Steve Price have failed and the fill in breakfast crew gave Bob Stensholt and Lana McLean a big run this morning but rejected offers to speak to me. This was despite our efforts in securing the Labor Party fundraiser guest list. 3AW's state political reporter Craig Wilson broke the "two Lana's" story but my comments were taken off air very quickly. Did management or the board have anything to do with this given that I criticised them at the Southern Cross Broadcasting AGM? 3AW has run very hard on the personality politics of the campaign. Steve Price spent about half an hour on the dirty pool claims yesterday while the papers largely ignored it, instead going hard with the Labor fundraiser.

ABC Radio has certainly taken a different view to 3AW. The World Today and PM both ran separate pieces on the fundraiser yesterday and 3LO's Terry Laidler granted a 10 minute interview last week. Jon Faine is running a candidates forum this Friday, in contrast with Neil Mitchell who has been surprisingly uninterested in the Burwood campaign.

The TVs tend to hunt in a pack and have given me two good hit outs with the "which Lana" controversy and "Labor's new rich mates". While this is good for public exposure, it really comes down to the newspapers in terms of getting a detailed message out there rather than just the odd one-liner. The 7.30 Report has apparently decided not to run anything on Burwood and wasn't even interested in the biggest fundraising dinner in Australian political history. Unfortunately, they're looking a bit Sydneycentric.

In summary, not much has changed since the general election. 3AW and the Herald Sun remain anti-Mayne but this manifests itself through a strategy of minimising exposure rather than running negative stories. Every candidate and politician knows that media exposure is the key to success so when big outlets shut down on you, the job is that much harder. These bans are understandable is a sense that media outlets don't want to draw attention to a website that contains criticism of them. Therefore, this website has received virtually no mentions during the campaign but continues to get about 3000 visits a day.

For the next three days we are attemptign to letter box every Burwood voter as a means of getting the pro-independent message straight through. Most of the media should cover the debate planned for Thursday night at PLC and run preview pieces in Saturday's papers.

On Sunday, it will be a front page story if Labor snatches the seat as now seems possible but a much less interesting story if the Libs keep it.