Old media caught with pants down, again!

By Barry Tucker          January 25, 2013

(Edited, amended and added to on January 26, 27, 2013)

Kim Powell

Kim Powell

Kim Powell is a former journalist who is now studying for a media doctorate and comments on the news media (and sexism) on the News With Nipples blog. Ms Powell has a Masters degree in journalism and considerable experience in the field. Her blog has won a citation from the Sydney Writers’ Centre.

In a recent blog, Kim gave a bucketing to the shallow and negative reporting of two senior political journalists writing for The Sydney Morning Herald and the National Times on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s selection* of Ms Nova Peris to represent Labor in the Senate.

“There’s a story in the Sydney Morning Herald today that’s a great example of how meaningless political journalism has become. It’s not about a manufactured scandal, or a gaffe, or something that happened decades ago, but is just the everyday political journalism that is, frankly, rubbish.”

Ms Powell proceeds to pick apart a largely negative and unbalanced story on reaction to the Prime Minister’s unilateral selection* of an Aboriginal woman and Olympic gold medallist to run for the Senate.

The everyday shit they call journalism


Ms Powell’s article is a bit ranty in parts. But her criticism of unsubstantiated comments, anonymous comments, insufficient research and (on the National Times online version) irrelevant photographs is reasonable and correct.

Nova Peris

Nova Peris

The main fault with the SMH/National Times story is its generally negative nature and complete failure to provide the background for Ms Peris’ recent work that supports and justifies the Prime Minister’s* choice. You can read a more sympathetic appraisal of Ms Peris’ qualifications here: http://bit.ly/11PBNyM in an article by close acquaintance Catriona Wallace.

The SMH (Fairfax Media) story is by-lined Mark Kenny and Jonathan Swan. Until recently Mr Kenny was National Political Editor, Canberra, for Adelaide’s The Advertiser (a News Limited publication). http://bit.ly/YL8jBW

Mr Kenny’s Tweets on his Advertiser account (http://twitter.com/@markgkenny), last used on November 27, 2012, are often negative towards Labor and positive towards the LNP Coalition, as I have come to expect from a News Limited journalist.

Now that he works for the Fairfax Media owned SMH, Mr Kenny will have to sing a different tune. The SMH and sister publication Melbourne’s Age became slightly more Labor friendly several months ago.

Ms Peris, if successful, will be the first Aboriginal woman to enter Parliament. This will be a significant event in Australian history and is more deserving than the treatment it initially received.

The announcement immediately drew criticism of the Prime Minister for a unilateral* decision, for failing to consult with Northern Territory Labor party officials and for riding roughshod over sitting Senator Trish Crossin.

That was followed by an attempt to smear Ms Peris with allegations of removing furniture from a girls’ college she established. It turns out Ms Peris removed personal furniture because education authorities decided to replace it with new furniture. No scandal at all.

Mr Kenny made amends for Thursday’s story with a more detailed and backgrounded story the following day. That story covers Prime Minister Gillard’s activities designed to get indigenous representation in the Australian Parliament and provides more information about Ms Peris’ qualifications for the role of Senator.

Prime Minister Gillard’s decision was not as unilateral as it was first reported. Mr Kenny wrote yesterday:

“While nobody saw her political arrival coming, the idea was hatched in November — the brainchild of the ALP national secretary, George Wright, and Mr Butler, now a member of Ms Gillard’s cabinet.

“It was the culmination of a nearly six-month search for a suitable indigenous candidate commissioned by Ms Gillard.

“Since then, an exhaustive process of due diligence has been run out of the PM’s office to make sure there were no lurking issues in her [Ms Peris’] past.”

In fact, Mr Kenny began yesterday’s story by writing that Ms Gillard’s interest in an indigenous candidate goes back to May 2001, at least.

Read Mr Kenny’s follow-up story here: http://bit.ly/UqFeI6

One aspect of the story that has not been explained is why the ALP has displaced a sitting and presumably successful Northern Territory Senator in favour of Ms Peris. This puts Labor in a similar position to the Queensland Liberal National Party when it decided to drop the very successful Queensland MP Peter Slipper in favour of Mal Brough, a former Minister seeking re-election.

Labor lost the last Northern Territory election. A significant factor in the loss was the former NT government’s decision to interfere with the structure of councils in outlying areas — a move that Aboriginal communities said seriously disadvantaged them.

Tess Lawrence

Tess Lawrence

Independent Australia’s Contributing Editor-at-Large Tess Lawrence has dug much deeper into the background of the decision to replace Senator Crossin with Nova Peris. Ms Lawrence says the storyline about “indigenous representation” should be taken with “a grain of epsom salts”.

Follow that story here: http://bit.ly/WICRi1


One thought on “Old media caught with pants down, again!

  1. Thank you for a clear and balanced article.
    In the Press Conference, Nova Peris said she was first asked eight years ago, but her children were too young and she felt she needed more experience. So that was known from the start, but the media decided to make the PM solely responsible.
    As for corrections by Mark Kenny, this pattern of writing, then doing research, maybe based on others’ reactions and/or objections is so poor, but is it a consequence of trying to get something out before everyone else?
    Peple tend to believe the first thing they read, which is why some of the LNP slogans have stuck so hard.

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