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Media briefs: cure for TB … anonymous sources … Markson’s tape …

The good news you missed, and the WH’s new press secretary is sick of all the anonymous sources bagging the administration. And other media tidbits of the day.

Good news fails to make the news. MH17 has taken up so much airtime that stories that would normally be huge haven’t gotten much of a look-in. That includes the announcement at AIDS  2014 that a potent cocktail of three drugs could cure tuberculosis in 75% of cases. We asked iSentia to send us the TV rundowns for Melbourne on Monday, and only the ABC mentioned the story at all — even then it was eight stories into its bulletin. Nine and Ten both had three stories on MH17 in their nightly Melbourne bulletins, while Seven had four. If the world seems bleak this week, remember there is good stuff happening, even if it doesn’t make the news.

Reporters should discount anonymous sources, White House tells press corps. Newish White House press secretary Josh Earnest told a room of journalists he was sick of reporters using anonymous sources. This led to a minor revolt as journalists threw the White House’s own media management practices back at it.

You criticise anonymous sources but we have anonymous sources from you every day,” one reporter said. “How can you criticise that when that’s what you basically give us every day, except for the briefing?”  That very day, the White House was holding off-the-record briefings on the job numbers, according to another journalist.

Earnest responded that he didn’t have a problem with anonymous sources being used in all cases, but that they shouldn’t be emphasised over comments from people willing to go on the record. “So what that means is if you have anonymous sources at the White House who are telling you something, and you’re going to say to them, that anonymous source, ‘Look, I’m going to give your side of the story a little less weight right now because you’re telling me this anonymously’. That would be an entirely credible thing for you to do,” Earnest said. And anyway, he continued, he’d been standing there for over an hour answering their questions.

The reporters weren’t impressed. As one responded, “White House calls on White House policy should be on the record.”

Here’s the video.

The tape settles it. Yesterday we told you Fairfax investor Simon Marais was rather unhappy about the way his comments had been reported in The Australian, or so he told two Fairfax reporters. The Oz’s media editor Sharri Markson was the one who interviewed him and wrote the piece, and she said she’d upload the audio to prove she hadn’t misrepresented him.

True to her word, the video was uploaded at around close of business yesterday. Markson, fighting what appears to be a rather severe case of laryngitis, does not publish everything Marais said. But then again, the interview was 20 minutes long. She publishes his criticisms of Fairfax, which all relate to the broader print business model rather than anything specific about current management, and not his praises.

In the recording, Marais comes across as pessimistic about the company’s future,  but not as unhappy with management as he has been in the past. For example, in this 2012 ABC interview he said that Gina Rinehart, then after two seats on the Fairfax board, could well make the point that the Fairfax board was being deficient or inefficient.  But this time, when Markson pressed him on whether there would be an EGM to unseat the current chairman of the company, he flat-out disagreed, saying he thought Roger Corbett was doing a good job. Perhaps it’s this questioning at the end that led him to tell Fairfax’s reporters that Markson had tried to push him to say negative things. But he declined the tough questioning, and she didn’t print anything to imply he thought otherwise. Overall, perhaps the tone of the article over-egged his criticisms of Fairfax, but in our view, the quoted bits are as he said them, with the appropriate context. Readers can listen and decide for themselves here.

Boris bad-enough. For reasons best known to itself, Fairfax is wont to go to Mayor of London Boris Johnson for the occasional op-ed piece. Johnson’s day job is running the largest city in Europe, so he has plenty of time to give considered thoughts to the UK Torygraph, from whence these musings are lifted. Johnson gets a quarter of a million quid a year for the columns, which he says he writes “for relaxation … on a Sunday morning.”

Alas, he was a little too relaxed this time around, when he turned his thoughts to MH17  — and especially the contradiction between the way in which the world has reacted to this outrage, and the shooting down of an Iranian passenger jet by the US ship Vincennes  in the Persian Gulf in 1986. Johnson claimed that the US immediately acknowledged its “error” and eventually paid compensation to Iran and to the families of the dead.

It took a letter writer to The Age to point out that Johnson was playing fast and loose with the truth. The US had to be dragged kicking and screaming into an admission of guilt about the Vincennes missile. The correspondent pointed out that the US had initially, and incorrectly, alleged that the flight was outside commercial airspace, issuing military radio signals and flying low, all of which Johnson neglected to mention. If only Fairfax had such forensic writers, rather than Sunday morning doodlers — oh, they did. The correspondent was Tim Colebatch, who covered Washington for The Age in the ’80s, and presumably regarded it as a full-time job. — Guy Rundle

2
  • 1
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 23 July 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Re Boris Johnson: and once Fairfax culls their more experienced journos who will remain to remind us of historical facts?

    Apparently the ones who’ve been put out to pasture.

  • 2
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 23 July 2014 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Sharri Markson is yet another News Limited hasbara stooge, who is way out of her depth in any discussion

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