21/06/2005 - 22:00

Media shapes opinions

21/06/2005 - 22:00


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The editor of Western Australia’s only daily newspaper, The West Australian, heads the list of opinion leaders in the state.

The editor of Western Australia’s only daily newspaper, The West Australian, heads the list of opinion leaders in the state.

Paul Armstrong, 35, took the top job at The West last year, capping a rapid rise for the career journalist.

His current job is inevitably influential, but in the hands of Mr Armstrong the position is especially so.

He takes a hands-on approach to the daily running of the paper and is a campaigning editor who selects issues and pushes them hard.

A prime example is The West’s current food labelling campaign and the blunt front-page attack on federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss this week.

An even more extreme example was his no-holds-barred attack on the Gallop Government’s plan for public funding of elections.

Mr Armstrong’s unrelenting attack on the proposal, including an unprecedented front-page editorial, was widely seen as being responsible for killing the proposal, which would have brought WA into line with other states.

Many critics believe The West’s political coverage, particularly its strong attacks on the State Government, is coloured by Mr Armstrong’s personal politics.

His supporters say The West has also been a harsh critic of the Opposition, particularly former opposition leader Colin Barnett, and note that The West endorsed Labor ahead of the last state election.

Another influential figure at The West is chief reporter Mark Drummond, an old friend of Mr Armstrong who handles many of the big stories.

Two other opinion leaders in the WA media are competing radio hosts Paul Murray and Liam Bartlett, with the latter clearly winning the latest ratings battle.

As well as their talk radio shows, which are major platforms for public policy debate, they also write columns for The West and The Sunday Times respectively.

Mr Murray in particular has used his column to tackle some of the key policy issues facing the State Government, which has gained him both friends and detractors.

Outside the media, Greg Craven has built a national profile as a constitutional expert and public policy commentator.

There are few other people based in Perth who would comm-and the same respect and attention as Mr Craven, who is seen as a judicious expert commentator.

Formerly at Notre Dame University, Mr Craven is currently executive director of the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy at Curtin University.

Another Western Australian with a strong national profile is award-winning author Tim Winton.

What makes Mr Winton influential is his willingness to use his public profile to promote selected environmental campaigns, most recently the campaign to keep WA free of cane toads.

He was also involved in last year’s campaign to block controversial development proposals around Ningaloo reef in WA’s north.

In a similar vein, but influential with a young audience, is award-winning rock musician John Butler, lead singer and songwriter with the John Butler Trio.

He has spoken publicly on environmental issues, particularly involving protection of forests.




•           Paul Armstrong

            Editor, The West Australian.

•           Paul Murray

            6PR radio host.

•           Liam Bartlett

            ABC radio host.

•           Greg Craven 

            Public policy commentator.

•           Tim Winton

            Author, environmental campaigner.

•           John Butler 



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