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Herald Sun Voteline Watch
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A while back, I was thinking how nice it would be to have a blog that calmly and carefully debates Andrew Bolt's columns. No fighting fire with fire - nothing but a point-by-point breakdown of his claims, with minimal opinion. A response that not only debunks false claims based on evidence, but which gives him credit every time he's right about something, plus highlights which points are purely opinion and outlines the range of alternative viewpoints.

In other words, a thankless task, but one with the potential to be a credible source of reason, pitted against Bolt's divisive opinion and cherry-picked facts.

But then I realised that it's a silly idea. It would help people refute Bolt's columns in conversation, but it wouldn't reach his readers and fans. The day the Herald Sun publishes a right of reply alongside a Bolt column is the day that some disgruntled editor is fired.

Furthermore, I've since found a blog that almost fits the bill. And what it loses in neutrality (it has a bit of opinion), it makes up for by airing a wide range of points in the comments.

So, here's an idea for an easier blog: Voteline Watch.

A blog that articulates what's wrong with each day's Voteline question in the Herald Sun. You know the ones. They're usually tied to a biased article in the news section, saying "Have Your Say". How much say can you have with Yes or No?

Furthermore, there's no link back to the article from the Voteline box on the letters page. So, some voters might not actually read the background to the question.

Almost every Voteline question I read is inflammatory and deliberately worded to encourage more votes. That alone reminds me of the quote about Murdoch prefering Obama over Clinton on the basis that he'd sell more newspapers.

As practice, let's start with yesterday's example of journalistic integrity.

"Should two-year-olds be taught about lesbian mums and sperm donors?"

Oh. My. God. Let's exercise our moral outrage, shall we? And yet, the question has little to do with the story. The publishers of "Where Did I Really Come From?" did not advocate that 2 year-olds be taught about sex. They merely explained that the book is suitable for 2-12 year olds, making it appropriate for use when kids have questions and are ready to learn. And the book's not specifically about lesbian mums and sperm donors - it's simply a book about conception that aims to be inclusive, rather than make IVF kids feel bad.

So, naturally, 90% of voters have answered No, making Herald Sun readers sound like homophobic puritans. But that's not the case; even the percentage of Voteline voters who are homophobic or against sex education would not reach 90%.

Have Your Say

Now it's your turn to pit your skills against those of the Herald Sun editors. What yes/no question can you come up with for this non-story about an existing book being re-released?
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Bolt's normally got a "your say" which I infrequently leave a response (when I infrequently stumble across his latest sensationalist pulp). I lean to the right, I have issues with Bolt being crass and populist more than anything else. He pokes the angry bear with a stick, not because the bear needs to be roused, but because he likes it.

I would have said no, not because there are issues with two mums, but because it is too complex to explain in child size packets. I have no problem with it being in the book, because a parent has to read it anyway, and can simplify the message.

My two are already getting "sometimes children can have one mummy/one daddy, two mummies, two daddies, or maybe just a mummy." but when asked why, its a more simplified "because thats just how it is sometimes".

As for the challenge.
Have you stopped passing on your insecurities about gender and sexuality to your child? Yes/No

"I would have said no, not because there are issues with two mums, but because it is too complex to explain in child size packets."

Exactly. The question's wrong. Do I think 2-year olds SHOULD be taught about sex? Of course not! But a question like "do you think it is okay to teach young children about sex if they're ready or have questions?" would get a very different response.

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