When is a journo a mugwump?

By Barry Tucker                    26 April, 2014

Julia Baird is a highly experienced, talented and versatile journalist. She tweets, blogs, moderates panellists on The Drum and has columns here, there and everywhere.

In an article in today’s The Sydney Morning Herald, Baird introduces readers to the Mugwump. No, it’s not a relative of the Drongo or the Wombat. It’s a native of the USA.

Mugwumps have found their way to Oz and they lurk around the corridors of power, some hanging out in the news media and some hanging on to the edges of political life.

They are said to be impartial observers. Baird claims some journalists fall into this category. I know some reporters who do; characters who just give us the facts without the adjectives, pejoratives, spin or bias. It’s a trick few journalists can pull off, however, because they are allowed more latitude and, frankly, they get carried away with it. You are more likely to find Mugwumps writing for The Conversation, The Monthly or Overland.

Anyway, Baird points out that it can be a tough gig and only those who have worked at the coal face can know how true that is. My words, not hers.

The sentiment is proven by the reactions of those for whom reporters and journalists scribble away — the readers, especially those who lurk beneath articles, blogs and posts, waiting to pounce with their usually uniformed and biased opinions.

The first commenter below Baird’s article is a good example. How Cold-Hands of Melbourne can write what he or she has written without a shade of embarrassment is beyond my understanding.

The only conclusion I can come to is that Cold-Hands is a Liberal troll. Cold-Hands is so bigoted, biased and one-eyed that he or she would not have a hope in hell of finding work in any but the most far Right-wing journal and even then would have trouble competing with the fresh talents of a Copy Person — if such a creature still exists anywhere.

You can follow Baird on Twitter @bairdjulia

Margo Kingston has achieved fame and respect as a journalist. In fact, she is a pioneer of online journalism. Kingston launched Webdiary for The Sydney Morning Herald, and wrote articles for the site until 2005.

After a period of study Kingston has returned to Social Media and launched the No Fibs website. She has also returned to an earlier practice of being involved in demonstrations.

In an article from the site of the Leard blockade, a protest against destruction of a forest by a mining company, Kingston talks about being embedded at the coal face for the first time. She also talks about how the experience has crystallised her plans for No Fibs.

Kingston hopes No Fibs will become an example of co-operation between citizen and professional journalists and their news outlets and, relevant to Baird’s article above, an example of fair, honest and ethical reporting.

You can follow Kingston on Twitter @margokingston1