GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 80

19 NOVEMBER 2010

 

“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time. Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”

– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.


  • Stop Press: Fran Kelly’s Catholic Union & Ben Hills’ Delistment
  • A Deborah Cameron Moment: In Which Ms Cameron Expresses Superstition About The Diana/Kate Big Rock
  • A Guardian-on-the-Yarra Update: Brad Newsome Looks At the United States and Sees Only Madness
  • Morris Newman Segment: The Drum Beats the (Sneering) Drum
  • Nancy’s Five Paws Award: Leigh Sales and Trisha Goddard Step Up
  • Correspondence: Mark Colvin & Gerard Henderson on the Andrew Olle Media Lecture and More Besides – Also Return to Sender with Phillip Adams AO
  • The Cliché In The Room Plus Miscellaneous Trivia – Including An Update Of MWD in 2011

NANCY’S W.E.B.

As previously discussed (see MWD passim), journalists and commentators do not go on holidays – unlike mere mortals. Rather, they enjoy a well earned break. [Can (Red) Kerry O’Brien – who is about to go into semi-retirement – be really enjoying yet another WEB? right now? – Ed]. Such key ABC programs as Australian Story, Four Corners, Media Watch and Q&A went into WEB mode in early November and will not resume till February. Nancy has decided to enter her kennel today and will not be de-kennelled until Friday 28 January 2011.

* * * * *

Due to overwhelming popular demand, MWD commences its final issue for 2010 with some of our readers’ favourites. Namely, those dealing with the amazing Deborah Cameron, The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra and our Maurice Newman Segment. But first, as journalists are wont to say, it’s time for Stop Press.


STOP PRESS

Fran Kelly Tags Tykes

Talking to Michelle Grattan on Radio National Breakfast this morning, Fran Kelly referred to Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDAEA) as a “Catholic trade union”. Now, what might that be? Is SDAEA (1) a trade union of Catholics or (ii) a trade union in which the executive are Catholics or (iii) just a way of branding SDAEA national secretary Joe de Bruyn as being a Catholic without seeming to get personal? MWD reckons the third answer is on the money.

Ms Kelly was talking about Joe de Bruyn’s statement that Labor will suffer politically if it gets caught up in advocating same sex marriage. Joe de Bruyn believes that marriage should be between man and woman. Sure, he is Catholic. But Julia Gillard has the same position on this issue – and she is an atheist. And, for the record, it’s not accurate to refer to the “atheist Labor Party”. By the way, in case anyone asks – Nancy is a lapsed Rockchopper [No one has asked. Ed].

Ben Hills Delisted

The shortlist for the 2010 Walkley Book Award was announced yesterday. The winners are Chris Hammer, Paul Kelly and Shirley Shackelton. The judges for the short list were Malcolm Farr, Kate Legge and Alice Pung.

The good news is Ben Hills’ error-ridden book on Graham Perkin which had made the long-list – did not make the shortlist. See MWD passim. Peter Hayes analysis of Ben Hills’ tome (which might be titled “Why Henry Rosenbloom and the Scribe team need a fact checker) will be published in the forthcoming issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. [I can’t wait – Ed].


A DEBORAH CAMERON MOMENT

Last Wednesday , to the accompaniment of the song “Love and Marriage”, ABC Local Radio 702 presenter Deborah Cameron covered the announcement that Prince William is engaged to Kate Middleton by deciding to interview Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine. Mornings with Deborah Cameron immediately honed in on the key issue of this (happy) occasion – namely THE RING. This followed news that the Prince had presented his fiancée with a magnificent blue sapphire and diamond ring which had belonged to his later mother, Princess Diana. Let’s go to the audio tape:

Deborah Cameron : Ingrid, first of all, let’s talk about the decision that he made to give her his mother’s ring.

Ingrid Seward : I think everyone found that really charming. But I remember years ago Diana telling me – in fact she didn’t actually, that’s not really quite – she actually told a friend of mine – in front of William. She said: “William, this, my engagement ring is going to be your engagement ring when you find a girl you fall in love with, if that’s what you would like.” And I think that’s really charming – that he actually, sort of, did what his mum wanted.

Deborah Cameron : And yet at the same time, um, something in me went “Oh!”. You know, superstition abounds. Why would she take it?

Stop the tape. Good question, eh? MWD believes that so sensitive a question on so important an issue is really sheila’s business. So we asked Nancy why Ms Middleton would accept a blue sapphire and diamond ring worn by super-star Princess Diana. Nancy offered the following insights. According to Nancy, Kate Middleton accepted Prince William’s ring because:

  • William asked her to marry him and she agreed.
  • It’s a gorgeous ring, worth lotsa money.
  • She wants to marry William, she likes the ring and is happy to be associated with the late Diana.
  • Unlike Ms Cameron, Ms Middleton is not superstitious.

The interview proceeded. Highlights included Deborah Cameron’s claim that Kate Middleton has “possibly a quite pushy mother” and Ingrid Seward’s condescending comment that Kate Middleton is “actually a bright girl”. Fancy that – a bright commoner. Mornings with Deborah Cameron then asked listeners to phone in suggesting possible wedding gifts. The leftist sneering sandalistas from the inner-city were soon on the blower. Paul suggested “a 44 gallon drum of our best dripping”. What a laugh.

Truly a Deborah Cameron Moment. Stand by for more in 2011.


NANCY’S PICK-OF-THE-WEEK

THE-GUARDIAN-ON-THE-YARRA – BRAD NEWSOME ON AMERICAN “MADNESS” AND OTHER DELUSIONS

The Guardian that is, the “real thing” in London – may be losing an estimated £100,000 a day but at least it knows its market. Namely left-of-centre types who live in London and Britain’s major cities. The Age, on the other hand, needs to appeal to both leftists and conservatives. The problem is that in recent years the journalists who run the Melbourne broadsheet have put out a Guardian-on-the-Yarra leftist newspaper which alienates traditional readers and advertisers. As the Labor MP Michael Danby commented recently, The Age essentially appeals to Greens voters – and the Greens poll about 15 per cent (tops) of the vote in Victoria.

Here’s an example of the problem. In The Age’s Green Guide on 11 November 2010, Brad Newsome reviewed Glenn Beck’s program which runs on Fox News in the United States. According to Mr Newsome:

If you want to understand the delusional madness that has taken hold of American politics lately, it helps to have some familiarity with Glenn Beck. Beck is the spiritual father of the Tea Party, a movement largely defined by irrational fear and rage, belligerent celebration of ignorance, hostility to educated “elites”, sanctimonious religiosity, violent rhetoric and rarely submerged racism, homophobia and greed.

So, there you have it. According to Brad Newsome in The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra’s Green Guide :

  • “Delusional madness” has taken hold of the US and
  • The Tea Party is composed of Americans subsumed by rage, ignorance, racism and homophobia.

On his website, Mr Newsome claims that he writes “clear, accurate and readable copy”. Except when he is writing about the US it seems. Brad Newsome is ignorant of the fact that there is no such single entity as the Tea Party – there are a number of organisations which claim the Tea Party name. Moreover, those Republican candidates who were successful in the 2010 Congressional elections – and who were backed by Tea Party style organisations – are not irrational or ignorant or sanctimonious or violent or racist or homophobic or greedy.

If Mr Newsome knew anything about American politics he would be aware that the successful Tea Party candidates are a mixed lot. As the African-American commentator Jason Riley pointed out in Fox News’ The Journal Economic Report on 7 November 2010:

Tim Scott will be the first black Republican Congressman from South Carolina since Reconstruction. Allen West will be the first black Republican Congressman from Florida since the 1870s. And it’s worth noting that both were elected with backing from the supposedly racist Tea Party movement…

Sure, Glenn Beck is a right-wing populist prone to conspiracy theories. But he is only one voice on Fox News. Moreover, Fox News has more left-of-centre commentators on its payroll than the ABC has right-of-centre commentators. It seems that Mr Newsome has adopted the leftist habit of branding anyone with whom he disagrees with as “mad” and “delusional”. No doubt he identifies as a “progressive” of The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra genre.


MAURICE NEWMAN SEGMENT

This (increasingly popular) segment is devoted to ABC Chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that a certain “group think” might be prevalent at the ABC – and to ABC 1 Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ certainty that no such phenomenon is extant within the public broadcaster. See MWD passim.

Same sex marriage is a controversial issue. It is opposed by atheists (Prime Minister Julia Gillard) and by Christians (Opposition leader Tony Abbott) alike – and it is supported by non-believers and believers alike. But you would never know this if you tuned into The Drum on ABC News 24 last Tuesday. It was (yet another) ABC panel where everyone else agreed with everyone else and where anyone with an alternative view was dismissed with at best a laugh and, at worst, a sneer.

Steve Cannane was in the chair and the panel comprised Chris Berg (Institute for Public Affairs), Chas Licciardello (The Chaser) and Miriam Lyons (Centre for Policy Development). Mr Cannane introduced the topic. Highlights included:

  • Chris Berg’s assertion that the fact that the House of Representatives had passed a motion – moved by Greens MP Adam Bandt – that parliamentarians should consult their electorates on same sex marriage – “shows you how very, very broken our parliamentary system is” and how “very far it’s deviated from the democratic ideal of representative democracy”. (The fact is that MPs are always consulting their electorate on issues and the Bandt motion was unnecessary – which explains why it was opposed by the Coalition).
  • Chas Licciardello’s assertion that Labor Party parliamentarians “don’t believe in anything” and that there is no validity in the view that “marriage is between a man and a woman”. Mr Licciardello described this position – held, inter alia, by Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott – as “a bumper sticker rather than an argument”. Mr Berg concurred.
  • Miriam Lyons’ claim that only those in favour of gay marriage take a “principled stand” in the debate. (Opponents of the concept are, presumably, without principle).

There was much laughter and plenty of sneering as Steven Cannane essentially agreed with Chris Berg who essentially agreed with Chas Licciardello who essentially agreed with Miriam Lyons who essentially agreed with Steve Cannane. The collective position was that Christians and Jews and Muslims and others who believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman are fools and idiots – and certainly not worth hearing on The Drum.

Maurice Newman: 3 Jonathan Homes: Zip


CAN YOU BEAR IT? TONY JONES AND CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

MWD is an admirer of much of Christopher Hitchens’ output and wishes him well in managing his serious illness. However, MWD feels that it is appropriate to note that the misogyny which was identified in his memoirs titled Hitch 22: A Memoir has not abated. The first of two interviews with Christopher Hitchens by Tony Jones aired on Lateline on Wednesday. Let’s go to the video tape:

The great Cuban writer Jose Marti said that a man – he happened to say it was a man – had three duties: to write a book, to plant a tree and to have a son. I remember the year my first son was born was the year I published my first real full-length book, and I had a book party for it and for him – Alexander, my son – and I planted a tree, a weeping willow and felt pretty good for the age of, what?, I think 32 or something.

To which MWD responds, what’s wrong with having daughters? Mr Hitchens did not tell Tony Jones – and Tony Jones did not ask – whether he has ever had a book party for his daughter. Can you bear it?


NANCY’S FIVE PAWS AWARD

Leigh Sales on David Hicks’ Guantanamo: My Journey (William Heinemann, 2010)

Final winners this year – in this most prestigious of all prestigious awards – are Leigh Sales and Trisha Goddard.

Reviewing David Hicks’ apologia in The Weekend Australian on 13-14 November 2010, Leigh Sales made the following comment:

He [Hicks] never mentions adopting a Muslim name, Muhammad Dawood. He also writes that he never met or conversed with Osama bin Laden. Yet in a letter to his family, Hicks wrote that he had met bin Laden 20 times, although he later told the Australian Federal Police in an interview that figure was closer to eight. Hicks insists he had never heard of al-Qa’ida before arriving at Guantanamo Bay, yet writes that he regularly had access to BBC radio after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Is it possible he never heard the BBC mention al-Qa’ida during that period?

The glaring weakness in Hicks’s case has always been that although he was in Pakistan on September 11, he chose to return to Afghanistan after seeing the events on television. Hicks writes that his passport was back in Afghanistan so he had no choice but to return for it. Yet he also claims he was in Pakistan on September 11 because he was en route home to Australia, having had enough of Afghanistan. In that case, why was his passport not with him?

Ms Sales concluded her review as follows:

Last month, Hicks appeared on ABC1’s Q&A program to ask former prime minister John Howard whether his lengthy stay at Guantanamo Bay had been humane. A reasonable question, but it is a pity that Hicks is prepared only to ask questions, not answer them. He is declining all interviews about his 456-page memoir, preferring to go unchallenged. It means that while this book is interesting, it is best read sceptically.

Five Paws.

Trisha Goddard Supports UK Welfare Reform

Remember Trisha Goddard, who once fronted the New South Wales edition of the 7.30 Report during the heady days when David Hill was ABC managing director? These days Ms Goddard is pursuing a successful media career in Britain. In an article in The Sunday Times on 13 November 2010, she declared that she considered herself “a lifelong leftie at heart” but now found herself agreeing with the essence of the welfare reforms proposed by the David Cameron/Nick Clegg Conservative/Liberal Democrats government in Britain. Ms Goddard wrote that “any kind of regular work will give people a sense of worth because they are most likely to feel needed, wanted, listened to and, most important, respected”. She added:

My views are based on some pretty extensive, albeit informal, research. In more than 10 years of presenting my chat show, I’ve talked to something like 40,000 guests. I insist on my researchers gathering two to three pages of background notes on each guest, plus the answers to a set of questions designed to furnish me with a picture of the person’s belief system, circumstances, inter-generational family relationships, expectations, fears, aspirations and so on. Add to this half a lifetime of work in the mental health field…

And what it’s taught me is that living in a household where no one works is like living in a cage — trapped by low aspirations. And without aspirations people create their own worlds, worlds in which they are able to feel needed and wanted and listened to.

She concluded:

People may regard me as well-off now, but I get cross when people call me lucky. No one called me lucky when I was working 70 hours or seven days a week or when I moved countries to find work or was in a psychiatric hospital. No, my luck was that I was shown what a resourceful work ethic looked like by my parents and I was helped back into work after a period of unemployment through a mixture of voluntary work, enlightened and understanding employers and available childcare, underscored by the belief that claiming benefits was truly the very last resort and certainly not the first.

Five Paws. And come on back Down Under – all is forgiven.


CORRESPONDENCE

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY: MARK COLVIN + GERARD HENDERSON ON ABC ADVERTISING, THE LATE ANDREW OLLE AND MORE BESIDES, INCLUDING STREWTH!

Nancy’s co-owner was shocked, absolutely shocked, that James Jeffrey in his “Strewth!” column in The Weekend Australian of 12-13 November 2010 crticised MWD’s coverage of the advertising for this evening’s Andrew Olle Media Lecture in Sydney. Mr Jeffrey makes the point that the Lecture raises funds for charity. Quite so. But MWD’s position remains unaltered. This is explained in the following email correspondence between Mark Colvin (presenter of the ABC Radio AM program) and Gerard Henderson – which took place after the release of MWD Issue 79 last Friday.

Mark Colvin to Gerard Henderson – Friday 12 November 2010

Dear Gerard,

I refer to your column in Media Watch Dog about advertising and the ABC.

You’re of course entitled to your views on some of the issues you raise, but your reference to Alan Rusbridger has the potential to do damage to a worthwhile charity.

Mr Rusbridger is coming out here solely to give the Andrew Olle Media Lecture, all proceeds from which go to the Andrew Olle Memorial Trust.

As you will remember, Andrew died of a brain tumour. The Trust (on the Board of which I served for some years) exists solely to raise money for research on cancer and the brain.

The annual Media lecture is the Trust’s principal fund-raising and awareness-raising event.

Implying, to your undoubtedly well-connected contact list, that it is some kind of promotional event for the Guardian, is not helpful, to say the least.

I know you had a few run-ins with Andrew when he was alive, but surely you would agree that the Trust is a worthwhile cause?

I’d be most grateful if you could correct this at the earliest opportunity.

Best regards,

Mark

Gerard Henderson to Mark Colvin – Monday 15 November 2010

Dear Mark

I refer to your email which you forwarded on Friday evening after the release of Media Watch Dog Issue 79.

I was interested to note your statement that I am entitled to my views on “some of the issues” which I raised. Thanks for that. Yet, according to you, I am not entitled to criticise the ABC’s extensive advertising of the 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture with Alan Rusbridger as guest speaker. You maintain that my comments in MWD have “the potential to do damage to a worthwhile charity” – namely the Andrew Olle Memorial Trust. You also allege that I had “a few run-ins with Andrew when he was alive” and imply that this explains my criticism of the ABC’s advertising of the Annual Olle Media Lecture next Friday.

In response, I make the following comments:

  1. As someone experienced in running functions, I know that tickets to black-tie dinners are not sold in the final week leading up to the event. This is especially the case if the function is held on a Friday evening in Sydney late in the year and the speaker is not well known in Australia. I do not believe that my comments in MWD could damage the Lecture in any way.
  1. I would have no objection to the ABC’s advertising the Andrew Olle Media Lecture if only the ABC acknowledged that such a promotion is, in fact, advertising. ABC management refuses to do so and, instead, runs the line that there is a difference between promotion and advertising. There isn’t.
  1. I know that the Andrew Olle Media Lecture raises funds for brain tumour research. However, this is not pointed out in the advertisements currently being run on the ABC advertising the lecture. You also failed to mention that the Lecture was a fund-raising event when you interviewed Alan Rushbridger on PM
  1. Contrary to your assertion, there was no claim in MWD Issue 79 that the 2010 Lecture is “some kind of promotional event for the Guardian”. This would be akin to claiming that Simon Schama’s 2010 Annual Dinner address to The Sydney Institute was some kind of promotional event for the BBC. All I was saying is that Alan Rusbridger’s opposition to charging for on-line content, which is shared by Mark Scott, is controversial. As I recall, when you interviewed Mr Rushbridger on PM recently you did not ask him how much The Guardian is losing each week
  1. It is true that brain tumour research is a worthy cause. However, there are many such worthy causes which are funded by dinners. My personal assistant Lalita Mathias runs an annual dinner-dance to raise funds for disadvantaged children/elderly people in the Goan community in Australia and India. Another worthy cause. But she has no prospect of having her dinner advertised for free on the ABC. There are numerous such examples.
  1. I did have a few run-ins with Andrew Olle. But the fact is that, in the period before his death, I got on better with Andrew than many of his ABC colleagues did. You will recall that Andrew was bitter at being dumped from his slot as presenter of the New South Wales edition of the 30 Report. I have no particular insight into the ABC but I know one senior ABC presenter and one senior ABC manager who have never attended an Andrew Olle Media Lecture because of the hang-over from their disputes with Andrew in 1994. For my part, whenever I have been asked to join a table at the Dinner I have always accepted. Moreover on such occasions I have contributed generously to fund-raising on the evening.
  1. The truth is that I came to respect Andrew because – unlike so many contemporary ABC presenters and producers – he was willing to invite on to his program individuals (like myself) with whom he had a disagreement. Andrew Olle presented the Four Corners program which I did on Bob Hawke in 1994 and he interviewed me on Radio 702 about this.

I have always adopted this approach at The Sydney Institute where many of my critics have spoken. I know from personal experience that if you criticise ABC presenters/producers today you rarely – if ever – get invited to appear on the programs over which they preside.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I hope the Andrew Olle Media Lecture goes well – and that it raises substantial funds for the Trust. It’s just that – contrary to you – I hold the view that I am entitled to raise all aspects relating to advertising on the public broadcaster – especially since ABC management maintains that no such activity takes place. Also, I find the authoritarian and intolerant tone of your email disturbing – especially as it comes from someone in a senior position on the public payroll.

Best wishes

Gerard


CONTEMPORARY PAST : BEN HILLS AND PHILLIP ADAMS FAIL TO PROVIDE EVIDENCE – OR WHY SCRIBE PUBLICATIONS AND PENGUIN BOOKS SHOULD EMPLOY FACT-CHECKERS

This (increasingly popular) segment on MWD relies on correspondents. MWD regrets advise that:

  • Ben Hills has not been able to document the (false) assertions he made about Gerard Henderson in his book Breaking News: The Golden Age of Graham Perkin (Scribe, 2010). He simply refused to enter into correspondence with MWD. See Issues 66, 76, 77.
  • Phillip Adams has not been able to document the (false) assertions he made about Gerard Henderson in his book Backstage Politics: Fifty Years of Political Memories (Viking, 2010). He simply refused to enter into correspondence with MWD (See Issue 79).

MWD engages in fact-checking and has a policy of correcting errors or issue

clarifications. Neither Gabrielle Coyne at Penguin Books nor Henry Rosenbloom at Scribe correct errors or even acknowledge correspondence. Shame Ms Coyne/Mr Rosenbloom. Shame.


NANCY’S OLD BONES – WHEN PHILLIP WROTE TO GERARD

Nancy was devastated – just devastated – that Phillip Adams AO ignored her co-owner’s most recent correspondence including the following missive sent yesterday afternoon which is set out below:

Dear Phillip AO, AM, Hon. DUniv (Griffith), Hon. DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), DLitt (Syd)

I note that you have not responded to my email of 10 November concerning the howlers about me in your most recent tome.

It is not too late to provide any evidence which you may have to support any of the assertions which you made.

Keep morale high

Gerard Henderson

Digging away in her garden early this morning, Nancy unearthed a letter which reflected a time in the dim past when Phillip Adams used to write to Gerard Henderson. Here it is – dated 30 June 1993. Note that Phillip Adams was happy to “josh along” in those days – even joking that his AO had been upgraded to an AC. Forget the humour. MWD believes that Phillip Adams should have an AC and will commence this campaign on 1 April next year. Contributions – of a financial kind – gratefully received.

Due to requests, Nancy’s Old Bones will be upgraded in 2011.


THE CLICHÉ IN THE ROOM: AN ELEPHANT’S PERSPECTIVE ALONG WITH WHAT’S TO COME IN MWD

The much awaited “Best of the Worst in the 2010 Election Campaign” special has been held over and will appear in the next issue of the Sydney Institute Quarterly. Likewise the held-over pieces from History Corner will also appear in the SIQ Issue 38.

MWD gives a hint of what’s to come. First up, this is the illustration which best pictures the Elephant in the Room scenario as a key player in the 2010 Federal election.

And here is Dee Madigan on Mornings with Deborah Cameron (on 17 August 2010) deliberately mispronouncing Janet Albrechtsen’s name.

Until next time – next year. God Willing.