Did Dreamworld’s tragic accident become a personal attack on Ardent’s chief executive Deborah Thomas?

Second Media Analysis Article by Andriana Simos (z5061608, F10A)

In the wake of the deaths of four people on Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids Ride, media attention has turned to Dreamworld’s owner, Ardent Leisure. Over the past few days, the Australian mainstream media has arguably represented the handling of the situation as a total public relations disaster after Ardent’s chief executive, Deborah Thomas, announced that she was yet to talk to the victims’ families two days after the event. In addition to this, many of the articles blasted Thomas after it was made public that she would still receive her $840 000 performance bonus despite the fatal accident at the Gold Coast theme park.

With all this in mind, the first part of this article will provide a brief background of the deadly accident before focusing on a close analysis of both objective and subjective news reports on the issue. These include: Antoinette Lattouf’s piece ‘Dreamworld Deaths: can the company’s leaders save the now-maligned theme park?,’ and Rachel Smalley’s article ‘Dreamworld horror show: ‘crisis management at its worst’,’ Additionally, the article will also look at Darvall and Geary’s article ‘Dreamworld boss’ $4MILLION shelter from the storm,’ as well as Keane’s piece  ‘Why should Dreamworld owner’s boss keep her $800 000 bonus? Because she earned it.’ Therefore, by analysing all these, the various representations of Deborah Thomas will be explored and it will become clear that in most articles, the readers are attitudinally positioned through words and images to take a negative view of how she dealt with the tragedy.

The Dreamworld accident will forever be remembered as a “family tragedy” after four people on the Rapids Ride were killed when their raft flipped over backwards into a wooden conveyor belt, crushing them underneath. Canberra mother Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett, his partner Roozi Araghi and Sydney mother Cindy Low, were later identified as the victims.

The victims of Dreamworld's tragedy (from left to right): Roozi Araghi, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Cindy Low.
The victims of Dreamworld’s tragedy (from left to right): Roozi Araghi, Luke Dorsett, Kate Goodchild and Cindy Low.

However, before the proper “mourning period” could begin, the Australian media turned their attention to Ardent Leisure’s shocking announcement that they would still be rewarding Deborah Thomas with her “performance bonus of $840 000.” What followed was public and media criticism to the point whereby, Thomas later backtracked and announced that she would donate $167 500 of her cash bonus to the Australian Red Cross. The well-renowned charity would then distribute the money to those affected by Tuesday’s tragedy including the daughters of Kate Goodchild.

Now, the question here is whether Thomas willingly donated her bonus in the wake of the tragedy, or whether she was influenced by the media’s criticism in the days following the accident?

In order to provide an answer to this question in some way, there will now be an analysis of articles from the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, the New Zealand Herald, the Daily Mail and ABC News. These articles will reveal the various representations of Thomas and Ardent Leisure and we will then be able to determine whether any of this media coverage may have influenced her decision to donate part of her cash bonus.

Let us start with Antoinette Lattouf’s piece, ‘Dreamworld Deaths: can the company’s leaders save the now-maligned theme park?’ on ABC’s news website (28 October 2016). This analysis opinion piece is an interesting example of the way “subjective” views journalism articles use both explicit and implicit language in order to position the readers to form a negative view of Deborah Thomas and Ardent Leisure.

The articles opening sentence, otherwise known as the lead, gives readers an insight into Lattouf’s central claim and argument right from the very beginning. She writes:

          “Ardent Leisure Group’s biggest hurdle is rebuilding the public’s trust in Australia’s biggest theme park after four people were killed at Dreamworld on Tuesday.”

The choice of words such as “biggest hurdle” and “rebuilding the public’s trust,” work under the assumption that the public have lost faith in Dreamworld and as a result, it is Ardent’s job to regain this trust. However, it is here where Lattouf’s article becomes more ironic. This is because although she does begin the article by describing the “hurdle” faced by Ardent Leisure, she follows on from this by revealing the idea that they actually handled the “hurdle” unprofessionally. This is evident as she states:

            “And at the helm of this disaster is the company’s CEO and chairman- the two high-profiled media figures boasting more than 60 years’ experience between them.

          “Yet paradoxically, the fallout from the country’s worst theme park incident since 1979 has been a public relations disaster.”

The juxtaposition between Deborah Thomas’ “60 years’ of experience” in the media and how the tragedy became “a public relations disaster,” is a persuasive technique used by Lattouf in order to frame Thomas a certain way. In fact, the reference to Thomas’ experience with the media gives off the impression that she should be media and tech-savvy, as well as experienced in handling Ardent’s “biggest hurdle.” However, this becomes ironic as although Lattouf describes Thomas’ media experience and skills as given character attributes, she then disputes her own assumptions by stating that the public relations aspect of the tragedy was actually handled poorly. In fact, further down in her article, Lattouf demonstrates how Thomas was facing condemnation for failing to contact the victims’ families straight away and for “still” receiving a performance bonus of up to $840 000. As a result, it is clear that Lattouf is implicitly implying that although Thomas is an experienced media personality, this does not mean that all her skills were relevant or utilised efficiently when dealing with the Dreamworld “family tragedy.” Thus, through her choice of words and the juxtaposition, it is clear that the readers are positioned to take a negative view of Thomas as a supposedly experienced media personality who failed to produce results.

In fact, this negative view of the way the situation was handled is widely spread across many articles published by the Australian mainstream media. One specific example which demonstrates this idea, is an “objective” news journalism item by Emma Reynolds (from news.com.au) entitled ‘‘We thought we were doing the right thing’: Ardent CEO.’ Her choice of the world “finally” in:

          “She finally visited the Gold Coast theme park…”

and the direct quote by the victim’s brother, Mr Simon Araghi, who said:

          “I finally got a call… but… I would have preferred the call a lot earlier,”

have been selectively included by Reynolds. This is evident as the words and quote have negative connotations attached to them and the evaluations are with respect to Thomas’ competence. Specifically, these extracts seem to suggest that Thomas’ delay in contacting the victims’ families and in visiting Dreamworld reveals her incompetence and inexperience. Consequently, although Reynolds has conveyed this evaluation indirectly through implication and the words of quoted sources, it is still clear that the readers are positioned to take a negative view of Thomas’ actions.

Moreover, another example of the calculated choice of words to subtly imply a negative opinion of Thomas can be found in Rachel Olding and Felicity Caldwell’s Sydney Morning Herald article ‘Dreamworld accident: Theme parks’ future ‘in doubt’ after four deaths.’ The word “finally” is utilised again in:

          “She was asked whether she had finally reached out to the families of the victims following a fiery press conference on Thursday in which the mother of two victims disputed her claim they had made contact.”

This word choice also has a negative undertone as it suggests that she had left it too late to contact the victims’ families and people were getting impatient to know if she “finally” had.

Furthermore, now that the writers have established that the Dreamworld tragedy was a public relations disaster, we come to the most interesting and common feature of commentary on this issue: the personal attack on Thomas as she deals with the aftermath of the announcement that she would likely receive a performance bonus just days after the Dreamworld tragedy.

Let us turn to Rachel Smalley’s, ‘Dreamworld horror show: ‘crisis management at its worst’,’ which is an opinion piece published in The New Zealand Herald. This piece is a more “subjective” views journalism piece and as a result, it differs from those by Reynolds, Olding and Caldwell. In fact, although Smalley also positions the readers to view Thomas negatively, she does this explicitly rather than implicitly.

This is particularly evident through the mixture of rhetorical questions and ironic tone in:

          “Why on earth would Dreamworld speak to the media about the tragedy, before speaking to the families who’d lost loved ones in such horrific circumstances? Thomas said she’d had some difficulty locating contact details. Just extraordinary. And then the conversation switched to her bonus.”

The truncated sentence in “just extraordinary,” is a persuasive mechanism which carries a tone of irony and disgust with it. This ironic tone explicitly positions the reader to once again view the way Thomas responded to the tragic deaths in a negative way. In addition to this, the rhetorical question implies a particular behaviour which is expected of Thomas- one where she should have spoken to the victims’ families before contacting the media. In fact, as Smalley does not argue for this particular behaviour through any appeal to facts or statistics, it is clear that she is treating it as a given and universally accepted way of dealing with a tragedy such as Dreamworld’s. In this way, if Smalley’s readers do take her evaluation of Thomas’ actions for granted, then she effectively has persuaded them to think negatively about her behaviour.

Further to this, Smalley’s choice of words and phrases also provide a not so favourable evaluation of Thomas.  Specifically, the use of negative adjectives in comments such as: “this is crisis management at its worst,” “handled this appallingly,” and “failed to convey just how serious the situation is,” position the readers to view the crisis management unfavourably. This is because Smalley has deliberately chosen to make an explicit evaluation of the ethics surrounding the tragedy’s management, which makes it difficult for her readers to form their own opinion.

Now, although this continuous use of negative adjectives is not supported by any justification, Smalley’s article does have a video of the media conference attached. This video focuses on the part where Thomas says that “now is not the right time to talk about transactions,” whilst the rest of the conference has been edited out. By doing this, Smalley provides some form of justification for her article. Particularly, a sense of irony is attached to Thomas’ statement as it was Ardent Leisure’s decision to announce her performance bonus at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and then suddenly she seems reluctant to talk about it. Therefore, it becomes clear that Smalley chose this specific extract from the conference to subtly characterise Thomas as a hypocrite who plans the announcement of her own bonus and then is adamant to ignore the criticism she receives for it. Smalley then leaves this representation open for her readers and viewers to infer their own negative attitudinal opinions about Thomas’ actions.

In addition, another example which uses a similar video as a representation of Thomas’ actions and comments at the AGM is Rachel Olding’s SMH article ‘Dreamworld accident: Ardent Leisure chief executive Deborah Thomas donates bonus to Red Cross.’ Although the article itself is more “objective,” it is interesting to see that Olding has also used a video which has a negative undertone about Thomas. Thus, it is clear that although some media coverage operates “objectively” and the other “subjectively,” the use of videos and graphics are an effective way to achieve similar attitudinal outcomes.

To demonstrate this further, let us also take a closer look at an “objective” news journalism piece by Kate Darvall and Belinda Grant Geary which was published in the Daily Mail. It was entitled: ‘Dreamworld boss’ $4MILLION shelter from the storm: Incredible waterfront penthouse of Deborah Thomas- as she comes under fire for ‘$800k bonus’.’

This headline is a clever persuasive mechanism used by the writers in order to implicitly reveal their standpoint from the very beginning. In fact, the capitalisation of “$4MILLION” and the play on words where Thomas is sheltered by “the storm” she created, effectively creates an idea of her rich and extravagant lifestyle. These attributes are then carried throughout the article with continuous references to her wealth and penthouse. This is evident here:

          “Dreamworld boss Deborah Thomas came under fire on Thursday over the theme parks handling of the Thunder River Rapids tragedy- but at least she has somewhere beautiful to go and escape the storm.”

          “Thomas, 60, owns a $4 million penthouse apartment in perhaps Australia’s most exclusive harbour-front suburb of Point Piper.”

By focusing on Thomas’ wealth, the authors have chosen a very different angle to all the other articles mentioned above. However, it must be noted that this angle still effectively represents Thomas in a negative light as she is characterised as unconcerned with the tragedy. In fact, this unconcerned attitude is particularly evident as the writers add the sarcastic comment- “but at least she has somewhere beautiful to go and escape the storm.” Therefore, although this article is supposedly an “objective” news report, the inclusion of this comment and the description of her “penthouse apartment,” is an implicit evaluation of Thomas’ characteristics. This then results in an attitudinal positioning of the readers, whereby, they accept these attributes of wealth as a given, leading them to conclude that Thomas is actually more concerned with her personal wealth than the death of four people.

This representation of Thomas’ wealth is also reflected in one of the article’s accompanying photos.

wealthy-deborah-thomas

In this almost full-length shot, Deborah Thomas is the main focus or focal point of the image. She is wearing a regal dress, covered in expensive-looking jewellery and a turban coated in diamonds and beading. In addition, the accompanying caption describes how she receives “a total salary package of more than $1.3 million” as a chief executive at Ardent Leisure. As a result, the image clearly compliments the article’s main angle as the readers are forced to look at actual visual evidence of Thomas’ wealth.

Last but not least, an analysis of Anthony Keane’s article, ‘Why should Dreamworld owner’s boss keep her $800 000 bonus? Because she earned it,’ also provides some insightful representations of Thomas. The opinion piece, published in The Daily Telegraph, differs from the others as Thomas is characterised in a positive way through Keane’s principle claim that Thomas “earned” her bonus.  This is further emphasised through his appeal to comparison in:

             “Asking Deborah Thomas, the chief executive of Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure Group, to give up her nearly $850 000 performance bonus in the wake of this theme park’s tragedy is like asking any one of us to hand back the wages we received last year.”

and the appeal to authority and statistics in:

          “As Ardent chairman Neil Balnaves pointed out today, the performance bonus was based on the company’s results for the previous financial year. That was a year in which revenue rose 16 per cent and operating profit rose almost 19 per cent.”

Although these claims may not be easily accepted by readers as they go against the majority of media coverage available on the issue, Keane does provide some new information which the other articles analysed above failed to provide. Particularly, through the use of facts, Keane describes how although holding the AGM and announcing the bonus “just two days after the tragedy was unfortunate timing,” the company was actually “legally bound to hold it.” Therefore, by referring to this in his article, Keane has provided his readers with a more positive evaluation of Thomas’ behaviour as she was actually forced to hold the AGM and announce her bonus whether she wanted to or not.

Furthermore, Keane’s choice of video is also quite insightful. Similar to Smalley’s opinion piece, Keane chose to attach an extract of the media conference where Thomas says that “it was not really the time to be discussing” her bonus.

Although these two videos are almost identical, in the context of the articles themselves, the meanings attached to them are very different. As mentioned, Thomas is represented as a hypocrite in the video attached to Smalley’s article. Contrastingly, the video used by Keane has more positive attributes attached to it where Thomas’ intent to avoid the questions about her bonus actually comes across as compassion- she would rather be talking about the victims than an AGM which she was forced to take part in by law. Thus, it becomes clear that videos are another persuasive mechanism which can position a reader in a certain way, particularly if they subscribe to the argument being put forward by the writer.

To conclude, a comparison of media materials relating to the Dreamworld “family tragedy,” has made it clear that most people were furious at the way in which Deborah Thomas handled the situation. Although Keane’s article does give a positive evaluation of the situation, this is clearly overshadowed by the more frequently negative representations of Deborah and her attitude towards the event. Therefore, it is clear that in the days following the accident, most representations of Thomas could be classified as “negative” and in some cases, a personal attack on her wealth and extravagant lifestyle. Whether these evaluations then influenced Thomas’ decision to donate part of her cash bonus is hard to determine, however, it could be argued that this negative media coverage did play a part in her decision.

References:

Proposal for Media Analysis Article 2

By Andriana Simos (z061608, F10A)

  1. The topic/subject area or personality you are proposing to deal with in your 2nd written assignment.

For my second assignment, I will be analysing the different representations of Deborah Thomas who is the chief executive of Ardent Leisure, the owner of Dreamworld. I will focus on her as a personality as she has recently come under fire following the Dreamworld ride tragedy. Specifically, I will look at a mixture of both “objective” and “subjective” articles in order to show the various opinions and attitudes towards Deborah’s “performance bonus” just days after the accident.

  1. How many articles will you be dealing with? Provide the headline of the items and links.

I will be dealing with 4 articles. These include:

  • ‘Dreamworld accident: Theme park’s future ‘in doubt’ after four deaths’ by Rachel Olding and Felicity Caldwell on October 28, 2016.

http://www.smh.com.au/queensland/dreamworld-accident-theme-parks-future-likely-in-doubt-after-four-deaths-20161028-gsdbf0

  • ‘Dreamworld Accident: Ardent Leisure chief executive Deborah Thomas donates bonus to Red Cross’ by Rachel Olding on October 27, 2016.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/dreamworld-accident-ardent-leisure-chief-executive-deborah-thomas-donates-bonus-to-red-cross-20161027-gscgl4.html

  • ‘Why should Dreamworld owner’s boss keep her $800 000 bonus? She earned it’ by Anthony Keane on October 27, 2016.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/why-should-dreamworld-owners-boss-keep-her-800k-bonus-she-earned-it/news-story/3656b7039435ea5866206c96ff878aba

  • ‘Dreamworld deaths: Can the company’s leaders save the now-maligned theme park?’ by Antoinette Lattouf on October 28, 2017.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-28/dreamworld-deaths:-can-leaders-save-the-now-maligned-theme-park/7975370?section=analysis 

  1. Brief outline of the articles you will be analysing.
  • This article by Olding and Caldwell is an “objective” news report article where the writers try to provide an “unbiased” report on the events as well as the way in which Ardent Leisure has handled the situation. However, regardless of the notion that the article is meant to be objective, it is clear that the writers have chosen specific words such as “backtracked” and “in doubt” in order to position the readers to think about the management in a certain negative light.
  • This piece is another “objective” news writing article, however, its focus is more on Deborah Thomas as an individual. The choice of words and images portray the idea that many people think she handled the situation badly and that the bonus announcement was poorly timed.
  • This article by Keane is a “subjective” opinion piece which surprisingly differs from the other two articles. It suggests that all the criticism surrounding Deborah is not justified as “business” must go on and she “earned” her bonus. He admits that although the timing may be wrong, it is really out of Deborah’ hands as the AGM legally needed to be held.
  • This article is “objective,” however, its choice of words is quite attitudinal and suggestive of the writer’s negative viewpoint of the “public relations disaster.”
  1. What do I anticipate to be my final conclusions?

By analysing all of these articles (both objective and subjective) it will become clear that most writers have a negative opinion of how Ardent Leisure and Deborah Thomas handled the Dreamworld tragedy. Specifically, the choice of words and images position the audience to take a negative view of Deborah and the group.

However, it must be mentioned that Keane’s more “subjective’ piece has a more positive evaluation of the situation and as a result, I will conclude that although some articles do portray Deborah in a negative light, there are also articles which are more positive. Therefore, the readers are able to read these articles and form their own opinion on the issue as the articles being published are not only negative.

Are Sydney’s lockout laws really putting an end to violence?

First Media Analysis Article by Andriana Simos (z5061608, F10A)

In January 2014, the Barry O’Farrell government introduced new lockout laws to curb the incidence of alcohol-induced violence. These new laws implemented 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks across the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct and there was also a NSW-wide ban on takeaway alcohol sales after 10pm. At the time, these actions answered a media panic in the wake of the deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, who succumbed to injuries sustained from drunken coward-punch attacks. Since then, assaults in parts of Surry Hills, Darlinghurst and Kings Cross have dropped as the lockout laws begin to come into effect. Regardless of this success however, the laws have recently come under fire in the media as Australians question their drastic effects on Sydney’s nightlife.

To emphasise the contentiousness of this issue further, this essay will focus on two opinion pieces both published in February 2016. The first article is by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Rob McEwen, entitled “The silent majority backs Sydney’s lockout laws,” and the second is by the Queensland Times’ Peter Chapman, entitled “Lockout laws a false hope to stop violence.” A thorough analysis of each article reveals the idea that although they vary significantly in their viewpoints, the author’s operate under the same assumptions about their intended audience. In fact, both articles assume a readership which is against the lockout laws as they are having an effect on Sydney’s nightlife and businesses. Therefore, a comparison of these two articles will make these assumptions clearer.

Firstly, the two opinion pieces are distinct not only in writing style but also in the ways in which the issue has been interpreted and evaluated by the author. Specifically, Chapman’s piece is more opinion whereby, he provides limited justifications for his negative assessments of the “young punks” who “booze up before they hit the streets.” By doing this, he is operating on the premise that the readers will share the same venomous view as him and will need no persuading that the lockout laws will do nothing to stop the “punks” from becoming violent. Alternatively, McEwen’s article is a mixture of both opinion and argumentation. This is evident because although McEwen does assume a readership which is against the lockout laws and their effects, he does try to actively argue for his principle claim that the lockout laws have actually reduced the number of incidents surrounding alcohol-related violence. Thus, McEwen’s article is more argumentative than Chapman’s piece, as he uses an appeal to facts and authority to effectively persuade his readers that the laws are in fact a positive policy put forward by the O’Farrell government.

Rob McEwen’s opinion piece, “The silent majority back’s Sydney’s lockout laws,” published by the Sydney Morning Herald, operates under the principal claim that the lockout laws should be supported as they have led to a dramatic drop in alcohol-fuelled assaults around the Sydney region. However, it becomes obvious that although McEwen is opposed to the “vocal minority” who argue against the lockout laws, he still operates with the assumption that most of his readers will come from this minority group. As a result, in order to make a convincing argument which goes against the assumptions of his readership, McEwen uses a number of justifications to support his principle evaluative claim. This is emphasised as he utilises a variety of appeals to authority, statistics and facts in order to get his point across that the laws have actually had a positive effect on Sydney’s nightlife. Specifically, although he describes how there has been a recent uprising of “misguided… comments” from vocal opponents to the laws, his appeal to facts and statistics highlights his belief that these oppositions are out of line. This is evident as he states: “What is beyond doubt, however, is that less access to alcohol results in less violence. For every hour (that) trading hours are reduced, there is about a 20 per cent decrease in assaults.” Therefore, this appeal to statistics effectively supports the primary claim and consequently, the piece is one step closer to convincing the “opponents” or “vocal minority” to agree with McEwen’s point of view.

Furthermore, McEwen’s strongest supportive argument is his continuous appeals to analogy where he compares Sydney’s nightlife to those in Amsterdam and “other large international cities.” In fact, he makes references to these analogies not once but twice throughout the opinion piece. These are evident below.

          “… all I am reading is that Sydney is dead, an assault before 3am is proof that lockout laws don’t work and Amsterdam has reduced assaults by increasing trading hours. Really? Then perhaps someone could explain to me why there is a 34 per cent increase in ambulance call outs in central Amsterdam for alcohol-related injuries since trading hours have been increased by an hour.”

          “You can still get a drink anywhere in the Sydney precinct until 3am. Small bars, most restaurants and accommodation hotels are exempt. How does this compare to other large international cities? Pretty well as it turns out. In Paris most venues close at 2am. In London it’s 3am and in New York, the city that never sleeps, most establishments close at 4am. In California last drinks is 2am, statewide.”

The underlying “logic” here seems to be that those who oppose the lockout laws have no basis for their belief because other countries have stricter laws and in some cases, such as Amsterdam, these laws have been ineffective in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence or injuries. However, as McEwen does not go into further analysis of these comparisons and the “logic” behind them, his argument is relying on the idea that the reader accepts the comparison as valid and that they hold a particular view of the laws. In this case, his presumption about his readers has changed. McEwen assumes they are beginning to agree with his principle claim that the lockout laws should be supported and as a result, he does not feel obligated to support his appeal to comparison with further justification. Consequently, at this stage, McEwen’s piece begins to assume a like-minded audience and therefore, his appeals to comparisons become more effective regardless of whether or not they have been backed up by other appeals.

In addition, further analysis of the piece emphasises this idea that McEwen is dealing with a like-minded audience. In particular, his use of rhetorical questions and pronouns such as “we” and “us,” gives off the impression that he is speaking for his audience rather than towards them. In fact, this is exactly what he does as he states with a clear tone of defiance and determination:

          “We need to ask ourselves, what sort of city do we want? A vibrant, exciting, safe city or a big, ugly threatening city overrun by drunken louts and hoodlums? I know what I prefer.”

          “And to Mike Baird, I’ll say one thing: the majority of the people in this city are behind you – the ones you hear are a vocal minority. Most of us don’t give a stuff if another strip club in the Cross closes!”

These statements are the clearest example of the relationship which McEwen has tried to create with his audience. For these arguments and defiant statements to make sense, the readers must hold a similar view of the laws- a view in which they should not be removed as they have made Sydney a safer environment at night. This is also evident as McEwen’s use of negative adjectives such as “drunken louts” and “hoodlums,” work with the assumption that the readers will take this description of intoxicated individuals for granted. Further to this, the truncated sentence, “I know what I prefer,” is another persuasive mechanism which emphasises McEwen’s belief that his readers have been effectively persuaded to sympathise with his standpoint. Specifically, as McEwen uses this sentence after providing an “either-or argument” between wanting a “vibrant” city or a “threatening city,” this appeals to the readers’ emotions as McEwen presumes they will also “prefer” a safe and “vibrant” city. Therefore, these comparisons and defiant statements make the piece effectively persuasive.

As a result, it is evident that although McEwen initially works with the assumption that his audience is not like-minded, he finally decides that his justifications have convinced his readers to see his point of view. This then leads him to make more generalized statements such as “commentary that suggests the Cross is dead is misleading,” whereby, he provides no supportive justification nor any appeals to statistics or facts. Thus, it is clear that McEwen’s piece is more argumentative than opinion as he formulates the “logic” of his arguments in order to convince a readership, which is not initially like-minded, to agree with his viewpoint that the lockout laws are positively impacting Sydney’s nightlife.

With regards to Peter Chapman’s opinion piece, “Lockout laws a false hope to stop violence,” it is clear that he also assumes a like-minded audience who will agree with his principle claim. In fact, Chapman’s confidence in his readers is clear as he explicitly states this claim, whereby, he believes the lockout laws won’t stop violence as “most youngsters… booze up before they hit the streets.” Regardless of this explicitness however, he does use an appeal to social and ethical norms as well as an appeal to authority, by way of justificatory support for his claim. This is particularly evident as he supports his argument regarding the “young punks” who drink before going out by stating:

          “This fact was backed up in a recent survey at the Gold Coast which revealed that almost 80% of people arriving at the strip to party had already drunk a skin full at home.”

This use of statistics and appeal to the authority of the survey as a persuasive mechanism is quite telling. Such an appeal to authority relies on the reader regarding the statistics and the survey from which they came, as well-informed, credible and honest. As a result, there is an underlying warrant here whereby, expert surveys are considered reliable sources which should be believed. Thus, it is clear that although Chapman is working with the presumption that his audience are of the same view as him, he still feels the need to support his statements in order to make his piece more argumentative and foolproof.

However, it must be noted here that although Chapman does provide this appeal to authority, he fails to provide the specific name of the survey. In this case, his persuasive mechanism becomes less effective than those used in McEwen’s piece, as McEwen provides the specific names of sources such as “Dr Don Weatherburn, director of BOSCAR.”

Alternatively however, it can also be argued that Chapman’s failure to name the survey is actually further proof that he assumes his readers know of such things already and will therefore, take everything he says for granted and at face-value. This is also emphasised through his use of negative adjectives in:

          “Our greatest problem revolves around the violent macho brigade of young men who want to belt the hell out of anyone who looks sideways at them.”

Without providing any argumentative support for this statement, Chapman’s evaluative argument becomes more opinion. He seems to be trying to appeal to the emotions and fears of the readers, however, without any supportive justification it becomes evident that the piece is designed for a like-minded audience who do not need to be persuaded by Chapman.

Furthermore, Chapman also uses an appeal to social and ethical norms in order to support his opposition to the lockout laws. After describing the “problem” of “the macho brigade of young men” who drink before going out, he refers to the “supposedly” widely held belief that only parents and magistrates can stop alcohol-fueled violence in Sydney. This is evident as he states using emotive language:

          “To fix that we need to have the community take a stand against them, have parents who commit to raising their children to show respect and most importantly magistrates who are prepared to lock the idiots up rather than letting them go with a slap on the wrist.”

          “Even one weekend in a maximum security jail will knock the macho out of any young punk.”

Interestingly, this appeal to social and ethical norms is not supported by further evidence and as a result, this is another case in the piece where Chapman presumes his readers will arrive at the same negative view of the “idiots” and “punks.” Thus, it is clear that although Chapman does provide some form of support for his principle claim, in some instances he does not provide enough and his piece becomes more opinion rather than argument.

As a result, Chapman’s piece is a mixture of both opinion and argumentation. However, it must be mentioned that although he does use persuasive mechanisms such as underlying warrants and an appeal to authority, in some cases his personal viewpoint overwhelms the piece. Therefore, this emphasises the idea that Chapman is under the impression that his readers would agree with everything he said and therefore, he did not feel the need to provide as much argumentation as McEwen.

In conclusion, an analysis and comparison of both articles reveals the idea that the authors believe they are catering for a readership who are opposed to the lockout laws. In fact, McEwen initially appeals to those opposed to the laws and uses a variety of persuasive techniques in order to convince his readers to see his central argument. Alternatively, Chapman’s piece is more opinion whereby, he assumes a like-minded readership and feels no need to persuade them as they are already of the same opinion as him. Therefore, although it would not be reasonable to form a number of general conclusions based only on these two articles, a study of each piece suggests an underlying presumption that readers are more likely to disagree with the lockout laws and as a result, McEwen has the more difficult task of convincing his readers otherwise.

Lockout Laws Proposal by Andriana Simos (z5061608, F10A)

Lockout Laws Proposal by Andriana Simos (z5061608, F10A)

  1. The topic or subject area of the views-journalism items you are proposing to deal with in your 1st written assignment.

For my first written assignment, I am proposing to deal with the lock out laws which have been recently applied to the Sydney region.

  1. The headline/title/name etc. of the items (or a brief designator if a broadcast item) and information on where and when they were published/broadcast.

Item one: ‘The silent majority backs Sydney’s lockout laws’ published on the Sydney Morning Herald website. The piece was written by Rob McEwen on February 16, 2016.

Item two: ‘Lock out laws a false hope to stop violence’ published on the Queensland Times website. The piece was written by Peter Chapman on February 12, 2016. 

  1. If the items you are going to be discussing are available online, then provide links to the relevant web pages.

Web links to the articles are:

  1. One paragraph summarising what you believe are going to be your primary conclusions – i.e. what you anticipate will be the main point of your intended article.

Both articles focus on Sydney’s lock-out laws, however, they have varying opinions. As a result, I will contrast and compare these two articles in order to show that through their primary claims and justifications, they both have very different underlying worldviews. In fact, I will also use Toulman’s model to uncover the unstated “warrants” or beliefs which the reader needs to adhere to in order to be persuaded by the author’s argument. Therefore, these are the methodologies which I will use when analysing the text.

Furthermore, by using these methodologies, I expect to come to a number of primary conclusions about the two texts. Specifically, it is clear that McEwen’s article works with the principle claim that drinking leads to violence and as a result, the laws are effective in reducing the violence. Alternatively, Chapman’s primary claim is that Australia is renowned for its drinking culture and the laws should only target those “young men” who get drunk before arriving at clubs or bars.

In addition to this, it becomes clear that although McEwen does use an appeal to authority in order to support his claims about the laws, Chapman fails to do so with the idea that his readers will accept his worldview and opinions without debate. Thus, I expect to conclude that McEwen’s article is more compelling as he tries to persuade the reader to have the same opinion as him, rather than assuming they already agree with him as Chapman does in his article.