Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Kerry Stokes’

Can the cross bench deliver citizens accountability from newspapers?

In Margo Kingston, Media Reform on March 27, 2013 at 6:57 PM
Daily Telegraph Front Page 19 March 2013

Daily Telegraph Front Page 19 March 2013

By Margo Kingston,
March 27,  2013

What a predicament. All seven cross benchers and the Government are dissatisfied with the standards of newspapers and want citizens to be protected against their abuse of their power. Julian Disney, who heads the Press Council which administers self-regulation, believes there are ‘substantial problems with media standards in Australia’.

Yet nothing will be done.

Let’s quickly address the blame game. The area is highly dangerous for any government, which is why newspapers have escaped any regulation for so long (see the Finkelstein report on the tortured history of journalists‘ fight to get even limited self regulation).

The government has dithered due to splits in cabinet, leaks to Murdoch papers (presumably from Rudd supporters) and fears of retribution by newspapers clearly barracking for the opposition.

So Gillard and Conroy rammed through Cabinet a set of reforms they believed were weak enough to pass muster with the proprietors and sought to blackmail the cross bench into saying yes or getting nothing.

The plan blew up in their faces. Murdoch media led an overblown and vicious campaign against the reforms. The cross bench was unhappy with the detail and the minimalist nature of the blueprint and refused to meet the deadline. Gillard and Conroy said it’s over, let’s move on.

So the government does lose-lose, angering proprietors with no result. The Opposition makes it clear it will not countenance any strengthening of self-regulation, keeping it onside with the Murdoch media. The chance is lost.

The real losers are the people and good journos who need to be empowered by some accountability for bad journos. As Julian Disney said so eloquently at the Senate inquiry, ‘Absolute freedoms attack freedom’.

Newspapers get protection for journalist’s sources and exemption from the Privacy Act with no obligations in return. And evidence to the Senate inquiry showed that News Limited and Seven owner Kerry Stokes believe there is no public interest in what newspapers separate from self-interest.

Disney articulated the public interest – freedom of expression – and gave evidence that the media standards problem was so significant that newspapers actually impeded the free expression of citizens.

This occurred through distortion, suppression of key facts and opinions, factual errors and invasion of privacy. (The worst example of factual error during the media reform debate was when two senior news limited journalists doctored a quote to falsely accuse Senator Conroy of doctoring a quote.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Kerry Stokes, free speech defender? Spare me

In Freedom of Speech, Journalism, Margo Kingston, Media Reform, MSM on March 18, 2013 at 3:11 AM
Kerry Stokes

Kerry Stokes

By Margo Kingston
March 18, 2013

I reckon it’s time for journos to start spilling the beans on the ‘free speech’ nonsense being spouted by big media. The big boys’ self-righteous, self-interested hypocrisy in the media reform debate is surely too much for any of us who care about the survival of our profession to stomach.

Today the Oz – of course – tells us Kerry Stokes will make a surprise appearance at the Senate hearings into the media reform bills ‘to denounce the bills and argue passionately in favour of a free press without government oversight’. The article lists all the heavies who will come to Canberra – they are a cabal on this, orchestrated by Murdoch’s boys – and explicitly threatens to campaign against the government right up to election day if they don’t get their way:

“The implicit assumption that by getting these bills through this week it means the debate will calm down is completely wrong and a fundamental miscalculation,” a senior media boss said. “It gives every media company in the country the incentive to keep campaigning on it right up to the election, and will strengthen the resolve of all the media companies to keep campaigning to make sure that if the Liberals get into power they honour their promise.”

They know and Labor knows Abbott will do their bidding if he wins office. Those quotes are code for telling Labor it ain’t seen nothing yet if they don’t back down. It’s crude, thuggish blackmail.

That’s how brutal they are. Who is running the country? Not voters, that’s for sure. Gillard has clearly had enough, and is going for broke. In an interview with Fairfax today, she said:

”Government in my view isn’t about looking at the powerful stake-holders and saying, how many can I get in my corner? Government is about serving the national interest and doing what the nation requires… I never expected people in the media to applaud any reform agenda because their agenda is looking at it through their eyes and what meets their needs rather than doing what I’ve got to do – stand back and say what meets the national interest.”

In this she echoes UK, Labor leader Ed Milliband, who has also put his career on the line to take a stand against big media bullies and demand serious accountability at last:

“Now we are at this moment which is a sort of crossroads: do we change or is it more of the same?”

The Observer reported:

Miliband says that now is the moment to break with the past, when “politicians were fearful of speaking out because they thought: ‘I’m going to get bad publicity, it will turn the press against me’.” He says that he believes the country is now “24 hours away from putting in place a system that I believe will work”, to ensure that the treatment meted out to the family of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked after she disappeared, and the parents of missing Madeleine McCann, can never be repeated. “I think it is an important moment because we have had decades of failing to ensure that we have a system of press complaints and redress which means that ordinary people aren’t left at the whim of a sometimes abusive press.

“Monday is the day that politics has got to do the duty by the victims and has got to stand up for the victims.”

If Stokes appears, I hope his bullshit bluster will be called and he will be asked about his free speech record (by the way, Stokes is not a man of his word and is gutless to boot). I personally know of a case where he dressed down a producer for allowing a tough interview on Murdoch because, he said, he needed to keep him onside. But there is a famous case of Stokes’ censorship on the record. Here’s an extract from a 1997 4 Corners program on Kennett’s culture:

Sally Neighbour: Last year in Melbourne, the most damaging story of Jeff Kennett’s Premiership came to a head in a drama that was made for television.

Archive, Today Tonight with Jill Singer: Hello and welcome to the program. Tonight we had planned to bring you a story about poker machine king Bruce Mathieson and a link with the Premier Jeffrey Kennett. Read the rest of this entry »

Grattan’s abrupt exit ends idealist’s dream

In Fairfax, Margo Kingston, MSM on February 14, 2013 at 2:31 PM

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By Margo Kingston
April 1, 1995

WHEN the managing director of The Canberra Times, Ian Meikle, told Michelle Grattan on Wednesday afternoon that she was sacked as editor of The Canberra Times and should leave the premises, he suggested a monetary settlement. Grattan refused. “I don’t want to salve their consciences,” she said privately later.

It’s one of the things those who admire Grattan learn to accept without demur. The extremism. The strict and idealistic private code of ethics.

Grattan, 49, did not even have a contract. She left her position as chief political correspondent of The Age after the 1993 Federal election as one of the most powerful and respected political journalists in Australia to join a provincial, under-resourced paper without even discussing how much she would be paid. (She appalled her deputy, Jack Waterford, soon after joining when she asked him what would be a fair salary.)

Grattan – workaholic, fanatically devoted to journalism to the extent of never taking holidays except to tidy up her latest book on politics, who will wake up ministers at 3 am to check a fact – is an extraordinary woman.

Having negotiated her exit from The Age amid a frenetic 1993 election campaign, Grattan started work immediately as editor of The Canberra Times. She had embarked on a journey which, two years later and despite her intense will to succeed, would end with a brutally honest admission of defeat on Wednesday night:

“The experiment has failed.”

Asked whether she would take a break, she replied: “Work is the best remedy.”

GRATTAN had been disturbed for some time that her paper, The Age, was taking a direction she could not accept under its new editor, Alan Kohler, who was determined to change her dominant role on the paper in Federal political coverage.

She was thrown by the loss of certainty of her pre-eminent place in The Age, whose values she had come to symbolise, and believed, perhaps wrongly, that Conrad Black’s management wanted to drive her out.

Grattan saw her chance to break free when The Canberra Times editor, David Armstrong, suddenly resigned for an overseas post. She approached the owner, Western Australian businessman Kerry Stokes, and offered herself for the job. Her vision was a serious paper with national influence.

She believed she was risking all and that failure would destroy her reputation. She was not prepared to fail. Her demands: a five-year commitment and Stokes’s promise to fund six more reporters. Stokes desired a national profile and East Coast respectability. He said yes.

Grattan refused to take what would have been a six-figure redundancy from The Age. “I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of saying I was redundant,” she said then.

The Canberra Times news staff and management were profoundly shocked, as was The Age. Canberra is still a small town, The Times having a circulation of 41,000. The editorial staff is dominated by people who had joined young and intended to stay for life.

It was a family, doing what they could, and succeeding sometimes, to achieve quality no other paper with their circulation even wanted to achieve – but an unambitious paper nonetheless. Read the rest of this entry »