February 05, 2014 | Graham

Cannery good news story shows way for ABC coverage.

The ABC’s role is to fill the gap where commercial news providers falter, and there is no bigger gap than that for good news.

“If it bleeds it leads” has long been a maxim for newspaper editors. So most of the news that we get is about famine, flood, fire, war and pestilence, but little of it is positive.

The result is that we live in a neurotic half-world where everything seems to be in permanent decline, despite the fact that conditions for humanity are the most benign that they’ve ever been.

Coverage of industry assistance is a good example of the problem.

The only businesses that you tend to hear about are those that are in decline. And when issues are covered the framing tends to again be in terms of doom and disaster.

This framing has been applied to the motor vehicle industry and now the food processing one.

The proposition which is uncritically put, and almost universally accepted, is that if the government does not give SPC Ardmona $25 m, jobs will be lost.

But the truth is that jobs and money will actually be saved and wealth boosted, if SPC Ardmona receives no government assistance at all.

The critical concept is opportunity cost. The $25m that Ardmona wants is $25m that will not be available to someone else with a viable business plan.

No better demonstration of that is the announcement today that a $40m cannery is to be built in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley by a group of farmers without any contribution from the taxpayer.

Company spokesman Colin Dorber says:

…the company will not go the way of other failed canneries such as SPC Ardmona.

Their struggles are about old technology, old ideas, and allegedly inappropriate employment conditions…

The reality is that a modern, technologically superior cannery and processing facility, purpose-built, is clearly viable and clearly profitable.

What the advocates of funding SPC-Ardmona’s Shepparton plant want to do is to take money away from profitable enterprises through taxes, to prop-up a company whose shareholders can fund the development, if they think it will be sufficiently profitable.

If not, they should think about selling the undertaking to someone who shares the views of Mr Dorber and his colleagues.

Full marks to Brisbane ABC Radio, and my colleague, Steve Austin, for finding this good news story.

When you look around, as he did on air this morning, there are myriads of other good news stories of innovative manufacturing businesses who are prospering, making a profit, and exporting all over the world.

I noted wryly last year that the ABC established a Fact Checking unit – wryly, because I thought fact checking was what journalism should be all about.

Perhaps they could consider an Optimism unit, whose job would be to check all of the sad stories, not for facts, but to see what the upsides of them are.

Posted by Graham at 3:49 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Good one, and I agree entirely.

    Comment by Don Aitkin — February 6, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

  2. This is in local area. I am very proud of the farmers who put this plan together and realising it.

    Comment by sparkx — February 6, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

  3. Ooops should have read – my local area –

    Comment by sparkx — February 6, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

  4. But people only like reading and hearing about bad news.
    Many years ago one newspaper in the USA decided to feature only good news in the first few pages of their paper. The well intentioned project didnt last very long. People were writing letters and phoning in asking “where is the news”?
    In a similar vein a world wide news agency along the lines of Reuters decided to only promote good news stories. It quickly went out of business.
    The moral of the story being that only bad news sells.
    If you read the headlines for most of the stories and reports featured in newspapers you will find that most of them have a shock horror or negative headline. This is especially the case with tabloids and the Australian too. Tabloids of course specialize in shock horror front page headline stories.

    Comment by Sam — February 7, 2014 @ 8:49 am

  5. I notice that farmers are going to build a $40 million cannery in Queensland – all with private money.

    Comment by Herb — February 7, 2014 @ 10:01 am

  6. That’s precisely my point Sam. People en masse prefer being scared to reassured, but there is a significant percentage of us who want information without the crap. I’m a member of that group, and I’d like to be able to get it somewhere. That I can’t means there is a failure in the market that the government could have a role in correcting.

    If all we get from the ABC is the same biased and opinionated ranting as we get from the rest of the world, there is no justification for its existence.

    Comment by Graham — February 9, 2014 @ 7:11 am

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