Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Jon Faine Affair’

Are journos about truth or reporting what they say?

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Journalism, MSM, NBN, Peter Clarke on March 11, 2013 at 7:33 PM
Malcolm Turnbull - Surrealist Artist Installation Staged At Bondi Beach

Malcolm Turnbull – Surrealist Artist Installation Staged At Bondi Beach

By Peter Clarke
March 11, 2013

Margo: My first journalism job was at The Courier Mail. One day I wrote a story about a disagreement in the Queensland National Liberal Coalition Cabinet about condom vending machines. My first paragraph quoted the then health minister  Mike Ahern. My second said that his statement contradicted another minister, Lyne Powell. The chief sub editor, Graham Earle, called me over to demand an explanation for my story. ‘What is this?” he asked. ‘The truth,’ I replied. ‘Your job is not to write the truth, your job is to write what people say.”

I was devastated.

I was relieved when Fairfax’s the Times on Sunday, successor to the National Times, offered me a job as its Queensland reporter. Truth was what counted for Fairfax then. I felt honoured to work for them

Still, I encountered variations on the theme there too, particularly when I covered the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal re-hearings into Alan Bond’s bribe to Sir Joh to pay him $400,000 to settle a defamation claim in exchange for, well, you know, the ability to do business in Queensland.

I was steeped in the first hearing, and during the second reported when the evidence diverged from the first hearing. Again, I was told, your job is to write what people say. I fought that view, and won.

So this is a recurring theme in journalism.

In Canberra I was aggressive in press conferences, and back in Sydney I was aggressive too. I remember one occasion when I was writing stories on how it was imperative for developer donations to be disclosed in NSW. I went to a Bob Carr press conference on the Bali Bombings, where I questioned the Premier on the matter, to be met with false allegations that I had condoned the bombings.

The then news editor, Mark Coulton, complained to the editor of smh.com.au, for whom I worked, that it was unacceptable to press the Premier so hard, to be so ‘aggressive’. So I posted the audio and asked for comment. The majority of readers backed me.

Is our job to report what people say or to search for the truth?  And if it is the former, does journalism serve a useful purpose in our democracy?

*

Examining over the last few weeks the intricacies of the Jon Faine affair, has been fascinating. I have encountered so many differing perceptions, views, narratives, claims, assertions around the original Faine broadcast interviews and the unruly notions of ‘factual’, ‘balance’, ‘impartial’, ‘accuracy’, ‘argumentative’ and, yes, the biggie, TRUTH.

Then, there have also been claimed ‘bias breach’ and process attributes such as ‘consistent’ and ‘proportionate’.

Most of these encounters, but not all, have been with news media professionals or the executives within the ABC whose job it is to hold the line and keep the ‘fair and consistent process’ alive and functioning no matter the manifest anomalies.

What has become very clear to me in researching and discussing this still unfolding story around Faine is that there are two realms from which to observe and appraise it: inside the ABC, where apparently process and its survival is everything, and outside the ABC where the view can be entirely different. Read the rest of this entry »

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@MediaActive interviews @JonaHolmesMW on #Faine

In John Faine Affair, Peter Clarke on March 6, 2013 at 11:31 AM
Jonathan Holmes - Mediawatch

Jonathan Holmes – Mediawatch

By Peter Clarke
March 6, 2013

If you have been following the Jon Faine ‘bias’ affair you will know that ABC Television’s Media Watch covered the Faine controversy on 4 February – almost the only ABC coverage of the finding and resultant strong dissent by Faine and several leading ABC current affairs journalists. (Faine archive)

In that edition, the presenter, Jonathan Holmes, made it clear that, with some caveats, he supported the negative finding against Faine by the ABC’s blandly titled Audience and Consumer Affairs Department.

Within the tight time constraints of that fourteen minute program, he made his reasons reasonably plain.

While writing the previous articles on this affair, I was able to communicate with Jonathan Holmes via email and Twitter to explore and clarify his views on the issue itself and the investigative and assessment processes around the finding.

He agreed to answer some questions via email on the record.

Holmes’ perspectives and analyses are very useful coming from a journalist of his long experience and, now, as the most established presenter of Media Watch on ABC Television. He took up that role in 2008.

He started in journalism in 1971 at the BBC and went on to Executive Produce the ABC’s Four Corners, Foreign Correspondent and The 7.30 Report. Later he went back in the field as a foreign corespondent for the ABC in Washington and as a reporter for Four Corners.

His report for Foreign Correspondent on the Balibo Five won a Logie in 1998 and his earlier film on the Hoddle Street massacre was also an award winner.

These answers from Jonathan Holmes put more flesh on the bones of his original Media Watch script.


1. On 27 February, in a tweet reply to one of my tweets you said:

Would you expand on what you mean by “woolly ABC Ed pols”? Are those “Ed pols” flawed to the extent they need reform in your view?

Do you mean the authentic application of these “Ed pols” by the ABC itself or by ACMA is intrinsically compromised by that “woolliness?

The current ABC Editorial Policies were issued in April 2011.  They were drawn up by the then Director of Editorial Policies, Paul Chadwick (who has since left the ABC).  Chadwick reduced the former Editorial Policies, which had accumulated over half a century and ran to a substantial booklet well over 100 pages in length, to a much shorter document encapsulating various Principles and Standards.

In addition, Chadwick issued (with the imprimatur of the MD) various Guidance Notes to expand on the much shorter Ed Pols – though none which are of much relevance to this particular matter. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy to face #Faine ‘Star Chamber’: @Colvinius

In ABC, John Faine Affair, MSM, Peter Clarke on February 27, 2013 at 8:25 PM

17TLUfN

By Peter Clarke
February 27th, 2013

EXCLUSIVE

Last night, I was watching 730 on ABC Television. As we can now, I also had my iPad fired up to follow the #abc730 hashtag as the program went to air.

With the cryptic words of the recent Jon Faine negative finding from the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs unit still buzzing on my frontal lobes, I was rather amazed to see an interviewer, Leigh Sales, whom I generally admire for the brevity and forensic character of her interview questions, appear to become somebody else.

Bob Brown was the interviewee on a link. Clashes between Japanese whaling and re-fuelling vessels and Sea Shepherd boats in the Southern Ocean was the central topic.

As I remember, Sales in an interview last year with now Greens leader, Christine Milne, exhibited a similar “Mr Hyde” transformation: not listening, hectoring, seeming to have a single line she wished to pursue at all odds. Not forensic, revealing nor at all clever. Except if she was “under instructions” to “do” Brown.

It was not a pretty sight from a frontline journalistic interviewer.

Of course Brown’s claims and assertions needed plenty of testing. He, as a contrarian, in the scheme of things, usually has to bat off quite egregious questions to bring the audience back to some logic and his line of argument.

That is what he did last night. He was able to sidestep Sales’ technique with ease.

The key words from the Faine finding flew through my mind:

“argumentative”? – check

“over-simplification”? – check

Sales’ cringe-worthy use of a simplistic analogy to equate breaking windows on illegally parked cars in her neighborhood with the Sea Shepherd’s activities in the whale sanctuary and serious questions of international law were clearly “over-simplification”.

“strongly-stated personal opinion”? – check

“due impartiality”? – well this is the clincher, catch-all phrase replete with ambiguity and deeply dependent on subjective responses on the part of citizen consumers and potential complainants.

I tweeted a brief critique of the interview. Others on the #abc730 hashtag were more pungent and clearly did not perceive “due impartiality” in Sales from their perspective.

Let me be clear. I don’t believe the Sales-Brown interview last night warrants a complaint for “bias” or lack of “impartiality” on Sales’ part. A critique of her approach and professional technique? Yes. By any measure, the outcome of that interview for us citizens was a very thin gruel.

That after all is the only real reason for major broadcast, “set piece”, accountability interviews. To reveal “factual” information, test claims and create coherence as optimally as possible in the (always) brief time allocated.

Showing off, digging in journalistic spurs for the sake of it are superfluous to the task. And almost inevitably counter-productive as last night again demonstrated.

Read the rest of this entry »