COMMENT by Barry Tucker 17 March, 2013
Oh my god!, as they say. An associate editor of a women’s magazine has gone out of her way to make a fool of herself.
I’m referring to Caroline Overington, who joined The Women’s Weekly last September. She was previously a journalist and columnist with Rupert Murdoch’s national flagship The Australian.
Ms Overington has also worked on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. According to her website she is a two-time winner of the Walkley Award for Investigative Journalism, a winner of the Sir Keith Murdoch prize for excellence in journalism and of the Blake Dawson Prize. She has written two non-fiction books and four novels. During her two years on The Australian Ms Overington worked with WW Editor-in-Chief Helen McCabe, who hired her for The Weekly.
That’s not a bad career at all, especially when a fair bit of it was done while wrangling twins, now 13. Ms Overington lives with them (obviously), a blue dog and a lizard — no mention of hubby.
None of that explains her article that appeared on The Weekly’s website, entitled Why Stephen Conroy should sue News Limited and featuring this Daily Telegraph front cover:
“In case you missed it, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney had a go at one of the Gillard government’s ministers yesterday.
The paper is comparing the Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, to Stalin.
It’s a provocative, maybe even outrageous thing to do. It’s not fair. It’s not balanced. It’s nigh on hysterical.
But so what?
Do you really want the government to prevent the paper from printing things like that?
The Telegraph was making the point that Conroy is trying to ram through new laws that would give the government a measure of control over the media.
What they can print and whether it’s fair, according to some standard no-one has yet seen.
That’s not the business of governments. That’s the business of despots.”
Well, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong. I could spell out where it’s wrong, as did many readers (see the comments below the story) and Ms Overington could have checked the facts too. But then, she would not have much of a story.
If you agree with Ms Overington’s line of argument, then you would have to agree she has left herself wide open to any kind of abusive, insulting or derogatory attack because everyone is fair game and decency has gone to hell.
Ms Overington (along with News Limited executives, other journalists and Liberal spokespersons and commentators) has gone over the top in likening Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s timid news media regulation changes to the actions of despots like those on the cover of The Daily Telegraph.
In doing so they have managed to obscure the real reason for their opposition: the proposed independent Public Interest Media Advocate, whose job will be to scrutinise and limit ownership of Australian news media outlets. The noise is coming from News Limited interests because News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch wants to further expand his already suffocating grip.
If News Limited was to bring the attention of the government and the public to its real concern it would be laughed out of town. It focuses instead on false claims of media censorship by despots. News Limited might be too dumb to see it (they haven’t fooled the public as far as I can tell), but the nature of its campaign makes a good case for the sort of regulation it is complaining about.
I was a sub-editor on The Australian Women’s Weekly, when it was a weekly, under the editorship of Ita Buttrose in the late ’70s. I’m not sure of the magazine’s demographic today, but I’m pretty sure it’s not made up exclusively of red-necked Liberals or women who don’t take social issues seriously. With this campaign, News Limited is wide of the mark and may have shot itself in the foot.
In a nutshell, News Limited has become its own worst enemy.