Sunday, 6 April 2014

A title to excite but not inform

What do you call someone who raises and grazes cattle for a few years and then sends them all to an abattoir for slaughter? A grazier. What do you call someone who plants, fertilises and farms a crop of wheat before sending in the slashers over all their land each year? A farmer. What do you call someone who plants, fertilises and protects 100 ha of forest then logs 1 ha? A logger. Why are those who work in forests labelled by the activity that only takes place on 1 to 2 percent of their land? Is it just lazy journalists and commentators who do not have anything to say but still want readers? If a journalist takes two 5 minute toilet breaks in a 7 hour work day then they spend at greater percentage of their time defecating than the total percentage of land logged in a commercial forest each year. So, for consistency, forest workers could be called loggers when graziers are called slaughterers, farmers called slashers, and journalists (or in fact all who work in offices and are entitled to toilet break) are called defecators!

Recently, the Prime Minister of Australia addressed a Forest Industries dinner. The room was full of people who ran nurseries, who planted trees, who built fine furniture, who made world quality paper, who sold machinery, who taught an incredibly complex discipline, who managed forest stewardship organisations, and maybe just two or three who used a chainsaw. However, the mere absence of any significant number of people who could actually log a tree did not stop the popular press from labelling the entire group as loggers with the implication that they engaged in deforestation. A simple tactic that allows these lazy writers to attract an audience by just using emotional buzz words. The Prime Minister himself did not use the word logger when describing the benefits of the industry, but that did not stop lazy commentators in the press from inventing quotes like "PM says loggers are the ultimate conservationists". Of course a made up quote like that, given the emotional baggage of the word "logger" will attract readers. Those poor, lazy commentators may not have received anywhere as much coverage if they had a headline that screamed foresters and those who rely upon and maintain the forest estate are conservationists.  Those poor writers may have been required to actually do some work to attract an audience. If they had done their work, they may have realised that deforestation in Australia has been caused by slaughterers, slashers and defecators but not by loggers. Hey, a headline like that might have attracted a big audience, but graziers, farmers and journalists would deserve a responsible and balanced argument, while loggers apparently do not.

Logging is a skilled and dangerous job, which does not deserve to be simply associated with dirty and uninformed labourers. Even so, logging occurs only on 1-2% of the public commercial forest each year and nothing warrants having the whole set of activities over the other 98-99% ignored by the use of this one inappropriate label. Deforestation is what happens when you take forestry and the forest industries out of landscape. Bad journalism is what happens you replace meaningful labels with emotion filled abstracts in the hope of attracting readers.


  1. I love your brain! I really enjoy your blog, and have awarded you the sunshine and shine on awards!