Sunday, 2 November 2014

Journalists have questions to answer - The AIM Network

Journalists have questions to answer - The AIM Network

Journalists have questions to answer

Look at this photo of Julia Gillard. Does this look like an
innocent person – someone who has just been vindicated by a Judge as
having played no part in any criminality in relation to a union slush
fund 20 years ago? Or does it look like someone guilty, with questions
to answer, being rushed away from cameras, refusing to make eye contact
with her accusers? This is the image that the Sydney Morning Herald used
to accompany a headline
which you would think would be good news for Julia Gillard, and bad
news for the media who relentlessly pursed this story to no end:

‘Royal commission on union corruption told Julia Gillard should be cleared of any crime’

The article moved quickly from reporting that The Royal Commission
into Union Governance and Corruption found Gillard innocent, to report
that her ex-boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, and his colleague Ralph Blewitt
should face criminal charges. Kathy Jackson is also recommended for
criminal charges. Remember Blewitt and Jackson and their work to bring
down the previous Labor government? No? Don’t remember these links? Why
am I not surprised?

To the average media consumer, who doesn’t follow independent journalism,
who relies on their news from mainstream journalists such as those at
Fairfax, you would never know that Ralph Blewitt’s accusations towards
Julia Gillard were used relentlessly by right-wing-nut-job-chief Larry Pickering (you know the guy – he likes to draw politicians with huge penises) to push the media to keep saying that Gillard had ‘questions to answer’.
You might wonder why the media would follow the lead of the un-hinged
Pickering and the word of Blewitt, who was blaming Gillard for something
he himself was being accused of doing in a bid for immunity.
You might also not realise that Kathy Jackson was the very same Kathy
Jackson who ‘blew the whistle’ on Craig Thomson’s misuse of union funds,
who is also partner of Tony Abbott’s good friend Michael Lawler
and a favourite guest of the right wing extremist HR Nicholls Society,
and was misusing union funds herself at many tens of times worse than
Craig Thomson. This article quotes the misuse for personal expenses at $660,000. But this link between right wingers and criminality in unions is never mentioned is it? This link to a 2012 article where Tony Abbott is praising Kathy Jackson as heroic
is never mentioned. These people with vested interest in bringing down
Labor politicians, who are accused of doing the exact same things as
they are accusing Labor politicians of doing, who have links to right
wing politicians and media identities
are never properly investigated because no journalist wants to make the
link between stories they’ve been writing, and the obvious campaign by
Abbott to not just destabilise Gillard’s minority government, but to
smash unions and workers’ rights with them. Remember Ashby versus Slipper, another campaign orchestrated by Abbott’s Opposition to try to bring down the Gillard government? Remember how Michelle Grattan used Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper as reasoning as to why Julia Gillard should resign?

You’ll notice that most of the stories that I’ve linked to in the
above paragraph were written by journalists at Fairfax. I use Fairfax in
this case purposely. I could have used News Ltd, but no one takes News
Ltd seriously as they don’t actually employ journalists and prefer to
work at being grubby partisan hacks so there’s no point reminding everyone why we don’t read News Ltd. I could have used the ABC, who went with this very ABC-like headline to report the news of Gillard’s vindication in the slush fund affair:

‘Trade union royal commission submissions question Julia Gillard’s professional conduct but clears her of any crime’

Of course the ‘questions’ had to be right up there front and centre,
and the vindication the afterthought, added later. The ABC is terrified
of Abbott and people like Chris Kenny who accuse them of left-wing bias
so they prefer to let Murdoch set the agenda than to actually do any
journalistic work themselves for the good of the public who fund them.

I actually used Fairfax not because they are the worst case of bad,
on non-existent journalism in Australia. There is some investigative
journalism happening at Fairfax, which the stories about Jackson, and
Ashby and Michael Smith prove. But what frustrates me, and should
frustrate the public at large, is the apparent inability for these
journalists to pull bit-piece stories together to tell a wider story,
which no media outlet in the county has had the courage to tell. Simply,
the media went after Prime Minister Gillard ferociously over Thomson,
Slipper and the AWU slush fund affair. The media mauled Gillard’s
leadership over these ‘scandals’, running with a fixed narrative of
Labor chaos, Labor dysfunction, Labor failure, Labor leadership
tensions. This fixed narrative refused to join the dots between the
Thomson, Slipper and AWU affair and the Liberal Opposition – who through
Jackson, through Blewitt, through Larry Pickering, through Pyne’s deep
involvement in the Ashby plot, were the ones goading the media on to
destroy their political opponents. This fixed narrative also seemingly
didn’t notice, or chose not to see, that the Gillard government was the most productive government this country has ever had. Where are the facts Fairfax? Buried in a political smear campaign?

In Kate McClymont’s 2014 Andrew Olle Media Lecture on investigative journalism, she said:

‘But as journalists we should have the courage to act for
more than the lofty notion of freedom of speech. We have a duty to be
the voice of the powerless in our society, to stand up for them.’

Were Fairfax Media journalists standing up for the powerless in our
society when they were complicit in a campaign to wrongly accuse Julia
Gillard of criminality in relation to the AWU slush fund affair? It’s
too late to go back and apologise for this error – the damage to
Gillard’s political career and her progressive policy platform is
already done. But what about Jackson and Ashby? Are Fairfax journalists
standing up for truth, for the powerless voters who knew nothing of what
was happening in the Thomson and Slipper affairs when Fairfax
journalists refused to join the dots between these Labor ‘scandals’ and a
campaign by Abbott’s opposition to destabilise the Labor government?
And what about union members, whose working conditions, wages and rights
will be damaged by Abbott’s campaign to destroy unions? Where are the
journalists speaking truth to power on behalf of the Australian public,
instead of on behalf of the Abbott opposition, and now Abbott

I note that Fairfax reported, but never mounted media campaigns that
culminated in suggesting the Prime Minister resign, stories about Abbott’s rorting of tax-payers funds for private travel, his daughter’s secret $60,000 scholarship, his own involvement in a slush fund to destroy Pauline Hanson’s electoral fortunes
(this was much more recent than 20 years ago). Is Fairfax saying that
they’re only interested in following stories that can damage Labor
governments? And if so, can they please explain how this represents
their role of standing up for the powerless in society? I think it’s
time that journalists realise that they have their own questions to
answer. And until they satisfactorily answer them, the powerless in
society should continue to distrust them.

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