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Margaret Simons: The Oz misrepresented me

The Weekend Australian’s article on journalism academics was riddled with misrepresentations and straight out factual errors, fatally undermining its central argument. Cameron Stewart writes that journalism courses are not taught by “real” journalists and that those who teach are out of touch with the industry, as evidenced by our taking seriously the Finkelstein report on news media regulation. The other academics who are maligned can doubtless respond on their own behalf. I will confine myself to my own position, and to the new master of journalism at the University of Melbourne. Both are misrepresented in the article.

Readers will have come away with the impression that I was one of the academics who “enthusiastically embraced” the Finkelstein report’s central recommendation for a statutory regulator of the news media. This is not true. The article I published in Crikey on the Monday after the report’s release began with the words: “Bottom line: I don’t like the Finklestein inquiry’s recommendation for enforced self regulation for news media.” I went on to say that self regulation hadn’t worked, and that the industry was culpable for this. I argued that the best outcome of the Finkelstein report would be a strengthened Australian Press Council. I also said that if the choice was between the Finkelstein model, and a continuation of ineffectual self regulation, then the Finkelstein model was preferable, but that I hoped for something better.

In other contexts, I have consistently argued for freedom of speech, including in the recent controversy over a court judgment against Andrew Bolt. The other factual errors in Stewart’s report begin with the very first paragraph. He refers to four academics who gave their views in The Conversation, saying they are from “Australia’s top journalism schools”. Yet my colleague Andrea Carson, although an experienced journalist and respected academic, does not teach journalism and is not part of a journalism school. Other errors include getting Wendy Bacon’s job wrong. It would be tedious to catalogue all the other trivial errors. —  Margaret Simons (read the full story here)

5
  • 1
    ggm
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t like their write up, or the snark. But to be fair, the OZ appeared to publish your letter, lead spot in the letters pages, and there is some sense that right-of-reply has been met.

    I’ve said it before, but I want to repeat: when journalism/journalists are the *SUBJECT* of a story, warning lights go off for me. Its not usually a good place to be.

    My personal view is that the editors of the Australian have a bully pulpit, and are using it. But, by the same token, aren’t you, and Robert Manne doing the same thing when you use right-to-publish here, and in other journals/blogs/places to raise your argument?

    -G

  • 2
    Cleaver
    Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Well the most obvious message in all of this is that the media, people who teach journalism and quite a lot of commentators are in every possible sense out of touch with their community.
    This debate is pathetic, tedious and self-serving. Perhaps the most annoiying element of it is the hair-splitting hyprocrisy of the “combatants”. Example above.
    Finkelstein has merely suggested that the public does not get a fair go when people find themselves objectified by a media outlet. No scoop there. He has suggested that the publishers’ self-regulatory get some beef and a bit more independence.
    A Martian landing amid this might think the end of the world was at stake. It’s a farce.
    Personally I can’t wait for some smart young (or elderly) thing to put the ideas together for a decent, reliable news outlet with a sense of what’s important to people.

  • 3
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Is Andrew Blott a journalist? Writing a column syndicated in the Murdoch press doesn’t make it so. A campaigner. A propagandist. An agitator. An opinionist. But not a journalist.

    At least Alan Jones describes himself as an “entertainer”. This is closer to the mark. He makes no pretense as providing balanced, accurate or impartial coverage.

    But what happens when the editorial stance of a paper creeps out from the leader column and infects the front pages? When folks who would describe themselves as journalists begin to see - or at least report - events from a particular slant. When facts are interpreted, filtered and even fabricated.

    This is more than a failure of journalism. It is a failure of a public duty. At worst it is a conspiracy aimed to further the political or commercial interests of the proprietor conveyed by a coterie of fawning management.

    In the absence of anything more draconian, I actually like the idea of extending the role of the ABC’s Media Watch - a forum to scrutinise and expose the worst of these practices and practitioners. It must be timely and current. It should provide an opportunity for a response.

    The ABC can do this on it’s own bat. It doesn’t require government intervention or vast resources. And it falls well within the ABC’s charter. It is also a pretty good rater.

    Start by making it half an hour - or a couple of times a week - a fistful of extra researchers and we’re away. The best 15 minutes on TV.

    Maybe shame and exposure can succeed where the government and the market has repeatedly failed.

  • 4
    Edward James
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Journalist are nothing special some Andrew Bolt, Janet Albrightsen, Piers Ackerman may elevate themselves by either being particulary good wordsmiths, knowing how to network, winning a Walkley whatever. Crikey.com several years ago used the term public trust journalist. I like that term because to me that means the bought and paid for media are loosing their grip on what gets a run in our broader community. Everyone if they wish can be a public trust journalist. Edward James
    http://bit.ly/EJ_PNewsAds

  • 5
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Peter Ormonde has said most of what I would add to this piece.
    But Margaret Simmons you must be elated and congratulated on being elevated to such an august position as to be noted and lied about by this Murdoch rag. There is not one part of this meglamaniac’s empire that shouldn’t be met with the publics approbrium.
    Congratulations Margaret on your public elevation to the ranks of notable journalists.

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