4.3 Genre

We divided the articles up into news, comment, editorial and features.

Figure 4.3.1: Genre of climate policy articles, from Feb. to Jul. 2011.
Genre No. of articles % of total no. articles
Comment 909 23%
Editorial 154 4%
Features 1276 32%
News 1632 41%
Total 3971 100%

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Figure 4.3.2: Percentage breakdown of genre count of climate policy article, across 10 Australian newspapers from Feb. to Jul. 2011.
Newspaper Comment Editorial Feature News
The Australian 22% 3% 38% 37%
The Age 26% 5% 33% 36%
The Sydney Morning Herald 27% 4% 33% 36%
The Courier Mail 22% 3% 34% 42%
The Daily Telegraph 25% 5% 34% 36%
Herald Sun 28% 5% 19% 48%
The Advertiser 15% 3% 33% 48%
The West Australian 19% 9% 33% 40%
The Mercury 19% 3% 19% 60%
The Northern Territory News 9% 0% 14% 77%

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News was the largest category, although not as dominant here as in some other earlier comparable studies. For example in an Australian Centre for Independent Journalism 6-month study of humanitarian issues coverage carried out 10 years ago, the proportion of news was approximately two-thirds of all items (Bacon and Nash, 2003:96). As Figure 4.3.2 demonstrates, The Mercury and the NT News had higher levels of news than other papers.


23% of articles across the sample were comment pieces, of which in-house journalists or regular columnists wrote more than 75%. It is possible that this reflects a trend in which more editorial resources are now focused on opinion writing, a cheaper and more individually distinctive genre than news. The highest levels of comment were found in the Herald Sun (28%), the SMH (27%) and The Age (26%).


We further divided features into those over 800 words, short features from 400–800 words and those less than 400 words. The reason for subdividing features is that the feature form traditionally allows for more sources, perspectives and depth. However, increasingly newspapers are developing a genre of very short features, including columns such as ‘Cut and Paste’ in The Australian which juxtaposes comments from different sources to make rhetorical or mocking points. Although these are now labeled as ‘features’ in Dow Jones Factiva database, they have little in common with more conventional features and could be considered to be a form of commentary. There were higher levels of ‘very short features’ in the tabloid newspapers than in the broadsheets.

Figure 4.3.3: Percentage breakdown for features, across 10 Australian newspapers from Feb. - Jul. 2011.
Very short features
< 400 words
Short Features
Between 400-800 words
> 800 words
Newspaper Very short features Short features Features
The Australian 17% 50% 33%
The Age 19% 55% 26%
The Sydney Morning Herald 13% 71% 16%
The Courier Mail 43% 39% 18%
The Daily Telegraph 34% 45% 21%
Herald Sun 54% 29% 17%
The Advertiser 46% 41% 13%
The West Australian 55% 37% 8%
The Mercury 50% 36% 14%
The Northern Territory News 79% 11% 11%
Total 29% 48% 23%

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When considered together Figures 4.3.2 and 4.3.3 show that while 32% of articles were features, only 7% of all articles were features of more than 800 words. This indicates a low depth in reportage and few opportunities for a range of sources to be given a voice in the coverage. It also shows there was far more commentary by in-house journalists and regular columnists than features of more than 800 words.

This may partly reflect the policy nature of the topic, which does not lend itself to ‘colour’ writing. There were however many opportunities where a range of sources could have been used to illustrate a range of different responses and arguments, where single source articles were produced instead. The highest proportion of such features was in The Australian and The Age.