Gympie Times fabricates evidence to hurt candidate
The following article was printed in the free community newspaper Gympie Life on 20 March 2008. The Integrity Gympie Team were unsuccessful in either the Mayoral elections or the Councillor elections#main_fn1">1.
This is no joke!
The multinational daily went into a late frenzy of fear and deception on Friday and Saturday to avert voters from thinking clearly and constructively on polling day (Saturday 15 March).
Friday's election eve cover story sought to discredit Ron Owen as having purposefully connected his campaign web-site to community group web-sites and identities so as to improperly claim their support for his campaign.
The facts prove the story to be a vicious beat-up. The most obvious and shocking of these facts is the fraudulently constructed front-page picture used to launch the attack.
This cover image (reprinted to the right) was a photographed web page containing a google search. The typed search terms shown in the picture, and stated in the article, are 'little haven gympie'. The top 'hit', supposedly returned from this search, is the 'Ron Owen for Mayor' website.
From this image is spun the story that Ron Owen coded his web site to appear whenever a range of Gympie community groups are sought on the web.
However a close look at the image shows that the actual search made to deliver the search result was not 'little haven gympie' but 'little haven ron'. This is proven beyond all doubt by the words that appear embedded on the page title bar, the search tittle bar, the search results bar, and the bolded type in the search result (all circled in red on the picture).
The words in bold in these four circled locations are generated by google coding and are the exact search terms used to deliver the page results. They are locked within the page structure. They cannot be changed without making a new search.
However the typed search field can be changed whilst the existing search results remain in place. Which is exactly what the multinational muck-rakers did. The search field term 'ron' has been deleted after the search was complete and replaced with 'gympie'. The altered page has then been photographed and printed as 'evidence' to shock and convince readers. The evidence is fraud. The whole story is error, exaggeration and defamatory vapour-ware.
Deft Dealings in Dirt and Denigration
According to Alan Caulfield, the developer of the web-page in question, the actual issue is nothing more than a simple and explainable misunderstanding. Mr Caulfield said that the paper could have easily checked and included the facts behind the published assertions prior to printing them. He says he did get an enquiry from the Times journalist, but it was looking for dirt not daylight. None of what he correctly explained to the journalist was included in the printed story.
"After reading Friday's printed article", says Mr. Caulfield, "I immediately sent them an outline of the technical facts that prove their assertions to be wrong. I requested they print this letter on the next day as some fair response to this concocted damage. It wasn't printed".
Checking both sides of the story before printing accusations, and giving timely right of reply after making accusations, are both basic journalistic standards. Neither was done. Both omissions were purposeful.
Mr Caulfield says we now have a much bigger issue, in fact a huge one: how and why has this paper purposefully manipulated a non-event to deliver personal damage, rather than acting to fairly and responsibly inform the public interest?
The Saturday edition of the daily then let fly with both barrels (the editor and the general manager) in an explicit and vitriolic attack upon the standards of the Gympie Life and all that is associated with it.
Considering the photo fraud, and its clear intent to derail the fair composure of the election, this is gross and despicable hypocrisy. Worse, it follows a criminal breach of the Electoral Act.
So then, to respond to Saturday's huff and puff editorial, who really is the gutter press?
Usually, and repeatedly, the Times cons its readers by what it doesn't print. It accuses and insinuates without giving right of reply. It beats the drum of developers and their tame politicians whilst avoiding printing any of the facts and the injury that exist on the other side of the story.
This works because it is deft. People naturally have trouble noticing what isn't visible. It works because it is relentless, drumming its skewed messages of favor and attack into our brains like clockwork. People may pick up on some anomalies, but the sheer torrent of it seeps in regardless. The only certain cure is don't read it.
To actually construct and commit a fraud as material and obvious as Friday's front page is remarkable. Quite obviously the stakes within Saturday's election were high enough for that paper, and whomever it is that really runs it, to risk this very extreme action.
The Life prints the facts and, as much as it can, the full facts. These can be confronting, and can sometimes be confounding given they appear nowhere else. Nonetheless they are the facts. If they weren't the Life would be sued. The paper does often opinionate upon those facts. However, given the facts, everyone can make and share their own opinion.
What the Life does not do is manipulate public opinion by censorship and distortion of fact. Neither does it fabricate untruths. It acts to shine light on things that need to be visible. Sometimes these can be shocking, even frightening. But do we want to live in the dark?
Gympie Life thinks not. We will continue to print the truth, as we know it, and all of it, for those who do not want to live in the dark.
Greg Wood, 19 March 2008
#main_fn1" id="main_fn1">1. Neither Ron Owen nor any of the eight Integrity Gympie councillor candidates won office. Undoubtedly, dirty tricks at the hands of the Gympie Times played their part in this outcome. This would have been compounded by former Mayor Mick Vernados' peculiar choice of using the undemocratic first-past-the-post system for both Mayoral and Councillor elections. Mick Vernados also failed to win office. For the Councillor elections, the 8 divisions were abolished and single combined electorate, in which 42 candidates contested all the positions, was created. This turned the councilor elections, in particular, more into a lottery than in an exercise in popular will, with 5 of the 8 the successful candidates not achieving the 4% of the vote required to get their deposits back from the Queensland Electoral Commission. Their votes ranged from 3.41% up to 5.94%.