Verdict: Trial by media

On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, Melbourne’s Herald Sun published a front page photo/cartoon and four pages of articles that were critical of a speech by federal MP Craig Thomson.

Mr Thomson was replying to long-running allegations that he had misappropriated funds of the Health Services Union.

Elected as Labor member for Dobell, he has been suspended from the party and now operates as an Independent.

The News Ltd owned Herald Sun responded with a virtual trial by media coverage of Mr Thomson’s speech. A front page photograph was embellished to give Mr Thomson a large Pinocchio-style nose.

The overall tone of the articles presented Mr Thomson as a liar. The two polls of Herald Sun readers that accompanied the articles largely reinforced the impression.

During his speech Mr Thomson questioned the possible involvement and motives of the Liberal Party in the affair — allegations that have not been examined by the mainstream media (MSM).

Some of the Herald Sun articles can be found here:

Thomson’s speech was unconvincing

David Penberthy, Herald Sun          May 22, 2012

Shamed MP Thomson plays the innocent

Patrick Carlyon, Herald Sun       May 22, 2012

Craig Thomson claims: readers’ verdict

Staff reporters, Herald Sun         May 22, 2012

Photos of 7 women and 5 men, their verdicts and comments; results of a “poll” of 12,082 people.

[The above article now carries a note that “the APC rules coverage of Craig Thomson’s speech to parliament was unfair”.]

The Australian Press Council received an unknown number of complaints about the Herald Sun articles, investigated them and issued a ruling.

This is how the Herald Sun reported on the Australian Press Council’s ruling:

Ruling on Craig Thomson articles

Herald Sun        November 28, 2012

A link at the end of the Herald Sun report, “Read the full adjudication here”, does not go to the APC site, as you might expect, but produces another copy of the same page.

The story below does provide a link to the APC site and ruling, duplicated here:

This is how the web-based news outlet reported on the case:

On trial with News Ltd

Peter Wicks          November 30, 2012

Action Front for Truth in News Media invites members of the public to express their views in their own words on the original articles and polls, the Australian Press Council ruling and the way the Herald Sun handled the ruling.