4.2 Types of Items

We divided the items originated by the four mastheads into five types within an overall division into reportage and commentary: reportage – news, features, running news blogs; commentary – editorial, opinion. We also analysed letters, which although they are selected and organised for layout by staff are written by readers.

Figure 4.2.a: Figure showing the proportion of each item across four News Corp publications from April 2019 to March 2020.

4.2.1 High levels of opinion compared to low levels of features

It is worth noting that while news was the biggest category (32%), opinion pieces were closely followed totalling 27% of all items. This reflects the increasing amount of commentary and the reduction in the amount of news in media observed by other researchers (ACIJ & ABC, 2014). The influence of opinion pieces on the overall coverage becomes clearer when the publications are compared in this report.

Features, which provide more opportunities for depth in reportage and analysis, were only 9% of all items. This is far less than ‘opinion’, which also tends to be more prominently displayed, especially in tabloids. Overall, there were very few longer features (more than 800 words) that related to climate change in these four publications, and even fewer that focused on climate science and the impacts of climate change (see Section 6.2). We also found low levels of features in our earlier reports (Bacon, 2013). This reflects resource constraints available for reportage, including a lack of reporters, and editorial policies favoring more subjective content.

4.2.2 Quantity of types of articles compared in publications

4.2.3 High levels of commentary

Overall across the four mastheads, commentary (editorials, opinions and letters) was 59% of items compared to more information-based news and features which, when combined, were 41%.

The high proportion of commentary material highlights the influential role it plays in driving the overall coverage. The levels of scepticism and negative attitudes towards action to address climate change in opinion pieces is discussed in Sections 4.5 and 4.6.

This smaller word-count study showed that the Herald Sun had a particularly high percentage of its words in opinion (61%) compared to the overall sample (42%). More than two-thirds of the Herald Sun word-count was opinion or letters, which are often written in response to opinion pieces. This may reflect the strong influence of the Herald Sun’s most prolific opinion writer, Andrew Bolt. The lowest word count of commentary was in the Courier Mail with 41% (opinion 25%, letters 15%, and editorials 1%) which conversely had the highest proportion of word-count in news and features (58%).