Newcastle Herald Butchery

Letter writers to the Newcastle Herald beware – they will without notice or care, edit and butcher your words when they publish your correspondence.

I’ve had four letters to the Herald published recently. Each time they have altered my words in some way, and in no case told me beforehand they were doing so. Up to now the changes they made ranged from inconsequential to mildly annoying, but this last time really got up my nose. On 6 June 2018 Brad Hill wrote:

FOOD for thought: a wind turbine will never produce as much energy in its lifetime as was used in building it. The mind boggles doesn’t it.

Now this might be true for a little wind turbine you buy from a hobbyist store to put up in your garden to power your electric gnomes, but for industrial scale electricity generation this is just mythical nonsense. (See for example a 2014 US life cycle study that shows that for a 2MW generator, the payback period is just 5 to 7 months.) Not wanting to just let this error go unchallenged, I wrote a carefully crafted, short 36 word letter to the Herald in which I wanted to make three points:

  1. The claim was outlandish.
  2. The claim was unsubstantiated.
  3. The Herald bore some responsibility for allowing this untruth to be published.

I submitted the following letter …

Brad Hill is right. My mind definitely boggles when I see published in the newspaper outlandish and unsubstantiated claims such as a wind turbine consumes more energy in its manufacture than it generates in its lifetime.

… but in spite of my brevity, the Herald saw fit to strip out two of my main points and on 8 June 2018 print this instead …

BRAD Hill is right. My mind definitely boggles when I see outlandish claims on the letters page, such as that a wind turbine consumes more energy in its manufacture than it generates in its lifetime.

I wrote to the Herald expressing my disappointment in how they had edited my letter and significantly altered my meaning, but they haven’t even bothered to reply.  It seems patently clear that the letters’ editor has no interest in truth, only in controversy.

Fake views

Facebook and Donald Trump brought fake news to the world, but I’m increasingly seeing fake views in the the newspapers, particularly in the letters to the editor.

I quite understand and support the idea that the letters page is a place where readers can express their opinions and argue their case, and that often those opinions will vary from my own views. But I find it quite depressing how regularly these views veer from opinion, to the expression of demonstrable factual errors and untruths.

Take for example a letter to the Newcastle Herald this week entering into the debate about cyclists on roads. I won’t name the writer, for my beef is not with them in particular but with the practice in general, which the Newcastle Herald editors tolerate if not encourage.

“The intersection at Ridge and Mitchell St Merewether has a four-way intersection with four stop signs, close proximity to a school bus stop and shops”.

FACT

The cyclists appear to think these signs are only for cars, but not for them. Red lights are also a special, blatant disrespect for the law.

OPINION

If an accident were to occur, I bet it wouldn’t be their fault.

FACTUAL ERROR

Note the progression from fact, to opinion, to absurd nonsense. If a road user (motorist or cyclist) breaks the road rules and causes an accident, they are clearly at fault, and the law clearly states so. Is the writer seriously suggesting that if a cyclist ignores the road rules and causes an accident the police or the courts will just let them off because they are a cyclist?

It’s not only the letters where fake views appear but the opinion articles also, where the writers seem to think that ‘opinion’ means a licence to state untruths. A particularly egregious example is Robert Montheath’s article on electricity and renewable energy on 29 September 2017 where he says that because …

” … we average only 12 hours of sunshine a day …”

… we will never be able to rely on renewables to generate the thousand of megawatts we need every hour of every day”

This would only be true if there was no such thing as stored energy. But battery storage or pumped hydro schemes means that it is absolutely possible for solar energy to provide all our electricity needs. It is a matter of opinion whether it is desirable, or how cost effective it would be, or how soon it could be achieved, but it is a matter of fact that it is possible.

People, please don’t poison your opinions by mixing them with untruths.

Totally believable spam

Occasionally I open up one of the  e-mails that Google files away in my Spam folder, just to see what’s on offer. This one made me laugh, several times.

Firstly with its claim that “Your Name And Your Contact Details Was Given To This Office”, yet the e-mail is addressed to “Dear Customer” and then goes on to ask me to supply them with my name and contact details and identification documents!

But the biggest laugh is the assertion that my $7.5m USD is sitting unclaimed “Because Of Your Unbelief Of The Reality Of Your Genuine Payment”. Its funny because its true.

The real NRL betting scandal

Tim Simona. Photo by Naparazzi.

Tim Simona is suffering from a drug and gambling addiction, and the NRL has quite rightly deregistered him from playing rugby league.

But the hypocrisy of the NRL is almost excruciating, as it remains silent on its own gambling addiction.

Consulting the website of each of the 16 NRL teams in 2017 shows that 13 of them are sponsored by gambling or betting corporations, the only three clubs not directly sponsored by gambling being the Newcastle Knights, Penrith Panthers, and Canterbury Bulldogs.

Club Sponsored by
Manly Sea Eagles Lottoland
Canberra Raiders tab.com.au
North Queensland Cowboys Ubet
Wests Tigers Crownbet
Sydney Roosters Betting.club
South Sydney Rabbitohs Crown Resorts (Casino), Luxbet
Parramatta Eels Betting.club
Melbourne Storm Crown Resorts (Casino)
New Zealand Warriors SkyCity Casino, TAB NZ
Brisbane Broncos Ladbrokes
Cronulla Sharks Crownbet
St George Illawarra Dragons Ainsworth Game Technology, South Coast Gaming Machines
Gold Coast Titans Ladbrokes

King of the culprits in this infamous list is the Manly Sea Eagles, who, in a move that is in equal parts pernicious and embarrassing, renamed their home ground from “Brookvale Oval” to “Lottoland”.

In 1992 the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act was passed to ban the tobacco industry from sponsoring sport. It’s time that similar legislation is enacted to rid our sporting landscape of the scourge of gambling advertising.