The Tele’s textbook example of how to run a winning newspaper campaign

tim burrowes landscapeThe Daily Telegraph has delivered a great piece of old fashioned campaigning journalism, argues Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes

Back when I worked in newspapers, I was taught that if a newspaper is going to embark on a campaign, it has to pass three tests.

First, and most important: Is it in tune with the readers?

Second: Does it have a clearly defined goal?

Third: Is it winnable?

photoOn that basis, The Daily Telegraph’s campaign for a second airport for Sydney is a textbook example of a great newspaper campaign.

Later today, the Federal cabinet is set to endorse an infrastructure plan which will see the airport built in the newspapers Western Sydney heartland.

While it’s impossible to know for sure, speaking as a reader of the newspaper, it feels like The Tele’s campaigning on the issue has been decisive.

By getting readers on side, it cleared political blockages both at state and federal level. Local MPs worried about local opposition to increased noise and congestion were nudged in the direction of supporting the economic boost, thanks in large part to the cover provided by The Tele.

How The Tele rounded up its campaign today

How The Tele rounded up its campaign in today’s edition

Perhaps the airport would have been built anyway. But given the fact that politicians have dithered for half a century, that seems unlikely.

Best of all for the paper, it is a campaign right in the heartland of its most important readership – Western Sydney. It ties in with the newspaper’s wider #FairGoWest campaign.

And it’s a great example where the product lives up to the position – in this case the “We’re for Sydney” slogan the paper launched two years ago.

Back then, I interviewed editor Paul Whittaker and he set out his campaigning stall around improving transport and infrastructure in the city.

His job, he said, would be “Identifying the problem, looking at possible solutions, and then pushing governments at all levels to try to get outcomes for the benefit of the people of Sydney.”

That’s exactly what happened with story after story prosecuting the case and chivvying the politicians to get on with it.

Clearly the airport’s not built yet. And Sydney has plenty more infrastructure issues for the newspaper to get its teeth into.

Regardless, these sort of campaigns are what tabloid newspapers, at their best, are all about.

Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella


  1. TheFacts
    15 Apr 14
    9:44 am

  2. It also helped that The Sydney Morning Herald fully backed the second airport and wrote a number of editorials in support. Often when both papers back a cause you will then see action (the NSW government’s lockout laws are one example).

    However, I think it’s also important to point out the massive campaign failures under Paul Whittaker. Anyone remember the obsessive and ridiculous anti bike lane campaign? The Tele campaigned hard, really hard, to have the lanes not only stopped, but also removed. While the government wavered at first, in the end they sensibly ignore the Tele. The government’s transport strategy for the CBD now includes an extensive bike lane network as well as other initiatives to make the city more pedestrian friendly (all stuff the Tele hates).

    Oh, and then there was the ‘Stop The Trolls’ campaign!

  3. Andrew Elder
    15 Apr 14
    9:57 am

  4. ThFacts is right. This article would have been better had it been built around “After years of failure, a Tele campaign actually coincided with a successful outcome”.

  5. Gary Nunn
    15 Apr 14
    2:41 pm

  6. Couldn’t agree more with TheFacts – the anti-bike campaign was one of the most appalling newspaper ‘campaigns’ I’ve ever seen.

  7. Michael Shafran
    15 Apr 14
    4:30 pm

  8. Since when is a campaign part of good journalism? So much for sticking to the facts, and presenting opposing viewpoints. Opinion is meant for the op-ed pages, and should be diverse at that. The fact that there’s praise for this reminds me why I’d rather read the New York Times (international edition, of course) and forget about Sydney newspapers altogether – except for lifestyle journalism and sport, that is.

    If a paper has to ask if a story is in tune with its readers, then it really isn’t interested in being a paper of record – it’s just serving as a rag pandering to popular opinion. And if it’s campaigning for a cause, maybe the editors should quit their jobs and run for office. When I last checked, that’s where campaigning is considered part of the job.

  9. Rob
    15 Apr 14
    6:53 pm

  10. The Tele is a rag and should be treated as such. It shouts at its readers and really has as much standing as MX and should also be handed out for free for all the real journalism in it. It may be appealing to its audience but I’d hazard a guess that most of its readers are only looking at the back pages and looking for a laugh at the front.

  11. Hugo
    15 Apr 14
    9:40 pm

  12. Spare me from “good” newspaper campaigns.

    The uninformed leading the….um even less informed. If you really need a newspaper to “fire you up” then people should be worried that they happen to share your news.

    Even back when newspapers were well resourced enough to do meaningful journalism the ethics of campaigns were…questionable.

  13. Dame Susan
    16 Apr 14
    8:11 am

  14. This has really missed the fact that Murdoch papers & Abbott are working together to keep the LNP in power. This Tele ‘campaign’ is a farce. Worse still is the fact that Abbott ‘responds’ to a media campaign & not to people marching for refugees or the truly grassroots March in March is appalling. Far from being a great thing this demonstrates everything wrong with media & politicians cosy cabal in Oz today. I live in Western Sydney. Far from clamouring for a new airport, we want decent public transport, health & education But these are being cut. But here you are lauding a ‘media campaign’ for a new airport which will bring greater traffic chaos, as no new rail links are planned only roads & proclaiming it as great journalism. And a great victory for Western Sydney.

    If anyone thinks Badgery’s Creek airport has suddenly been given the go ahead due to a ‘media campaign’ they are deluded and politically naïve. What the Daily Terror “campaign” is really about: Despite their grand hopes Libs did not do as well in W Sydney in last election as expected. Ed Husic and Michelle Rowland retained their seats with increased majority. Despite the Terror’s daily hectoring of it’s readers and proclamations that we’d all had enough of Labor. So they start a phony campaign for western Sydney to which Abbott can respond as if he cares by doing stuff he was going to do anyway. Never mind that he cut the funding to a new MRI machine badly needed at Mount Druitt hospital, which already budgeted for. Which means people have to wait 4 weeks for the scan to be done at Blacktown.

    The aim: Abbott looks like he cares & to convince Western Sydney residents that the Daily Terror speaks for them. So next election when Daily Terror says Abbott is the man for us all of us muppets in W Sydney will believe it & vote for the libs Ta Da!

  15. Furious
    16 Apr 14
    8:14 am

  16. A disgraceful example of the media serving vested interests. This campaign had nothing to do with serving the needs of the community as it clearly acts against the best interests of the 2 million people living in western Sydney.

  17. johnno
    16 Apr 14
    2:47 pm

  18. It’s more like a campaign on how to brainwash people with propaganda.

    eg Western Sydney deserves it’s own airport. Airplanes are quiet. A 30-year-old airport recommendation is still valid.

  19. Marto
    16 Apr 14
    10:51 pm

  20. Tim you very naive if you actually think the Tele had any real impact on this. It was pre-planned and the Tele knew this and has been pushing to show Abbott as the white knight. Propaganda and you are buying it. The Libs didn’t take as much of the west as hoped and this is just another attempt to brainwash those stupid enough to think the Tele is a ‘news’ paper.

  21. John Grono
    20 Apr 14
    5:42 pm

  22. I look forward to the Tele supporting “better outcomes for the people of Sydney”. This would of course mean that they would need to campaign against Stage 1 of WestConnex which is scheduled to spend around $3.85b on building a tunnel to the START of City West Link which is already a bottle-neck straining under the traffic growth.

    So Paul, jump on board and support the M4 East Long Tunnel which goes all the way to the disused Lilyfield rail-yards then uses surface roads to join up to the Anzac Bridge (which needs to be modified to peak-time tidal flow). This would mean no traffic lights from Penrith to Pyrmont, instead of eight sets of traffic lights in the past 3.5km. Then the City West Link can be used for express bus services to serve the Inner West out to Concord Road.

  23. TheFacts
    6 May 14
    9:51 am

  24. In Australia and Britain politicians will pretty much always do what a Murdoch tabloid tells them to do (despite the increasing evidence that they have little sway on voting intentions – just look at the recent federal result in western Sydney) so judging a campaign on a government’s willingness to adopt a Telegraph recommendation is flawed. The question that should asked is: did this campaign increase sales of the Tele? That’s how a tabloid campaign is really judged to be successful. Tabloids need to sell huge numbers as, due to the tiny cover price, they rely heavily on advertising. But the Tele’s circulation has been plunging along with the rest of the newspapers. And in the latest digital survey the Tele doesn’t even make the top 10 websites (perhaps the reason why they have implemented an exact replica of the Daily Mail’s right rail of shame). It seems to me that this campaign is more of an indulgence for the editor, rather than something that appeals to readers.