The one time respected Media Watch continues its slide much to our despair. This week they hit new lows.

Media Watch Watch

The desultory detachment that Paul Barry brings to his new day job as presenter of ABC TV’s Media Watch is beginning to grind, grate and irritate. Not only is the new watchdog fat, lazy and loquacious, he never seems to come when he’s called!

Barry spends more time chasing and chewing on the consumer chickens, he is there to protect, rather than frightening-off the poachers from the “dark side” of journalism he is there to bark off. It is good not to have a lawyer doing the job for a change, but when is the congenial open necked-shirted Barry going to get out there and catch some media criminals rather than doing his dozy, happy-go-lucky vaudeville act that is more fitting for a steak-knife salesman than a serious media critic?

As a case in point, this week’s Media Watch was an embarrassing crock of shit. It was not even something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Barry started with an “in shallow” tete-a-tete between the ABC’s politically-correct John Faine and Terry Lane swapping jokes on 3L0 about International Wimmins’ Day as an obviously counter-cyclical routine of anti-wimminist jokes. Barry thought (if that is part of his thinking processes) that Terry Lane was being an abject male chauvinist pig, and that Faine was his giggling accomplice.

Oh contraire! Lane and Faine were merely taking the piss! Blind Frederica – and Paula Barry – could, and should, have seen that! But, no matter. What was it doing as the lead story on Media Watch? Was there not other wimmist nonsense going on in the Fairfax press that day that was worthy of a snide aside?

Barry, who is now fated as the journalist’s journalist, totally failed to grasp the real nettle of his new job description. Either that or the guy is on the take, for $200,000 a year, NOT to attack the Fairfax press for rank tokenism on International Wimmins’ Day – or any other Fairfax indiscretions.

Last Wednesday week, the Age devoted its entire edition to the clumsy deft touch of the wimminists. Many publications – including the Zeitgeist Gazette, the Oz and the Herald Sun – pointed out that an obituary page that failed to mention any dead men on the day – was a nonsense. Instead, what we got was a wimminist local government official from Sierra Leone and a hurler from Canada – neither of whom had been anywhere near Australia in their entire lives.

Crikey Media doesn’t think that Barry made a mistake, or was badly served by his researchers. But it doesn’t matter what we think. Barry is paid $200,000 a year to work for Fairfax for three-days a week on “special projects”. The perception is that Barry is on the take from Fairfax. What is Barry doing to disprove these perceptions?

So far, Barry’s special projects have consisted of two front page stories in the Age and the SMH to promote his new book on Alan Bond. What we have never seen is any form of attack on Fairfax. Is this Barry’s cash-for-comment or no-comment? Barry’s credits on Media Watch say that he is paid money by the Sydney Morning Herald to talk their book. The credits say nothing about the money he is also paid by the Melbourne Age to also talk their book – and the money Barry is paid by his book publisher to talk-up his new Bond book? So who is watching the media watcher?

The Age this week pointed out that Barry’s Media Watch had ran a picture of Steve “church and state” Harris, Age publisher and editor-in-chief, instead of John Faine. Shit happens and we are not going to blame Paul Barry for that.

But Crikey Media can not tell the difference. All we know, is what we read in the newspapers. This is what our mate, Graeme Leach, said in the Melba column in the Oz on Thursday: “An aspect of Media Watch presenter Paul Barry’s relationship with the Sydney Morning Herald (where he is reportedly paid $200,000 per year for a three-day week) is on display this week in the newspaper’s television guide.

“Barry’s show gets the thumbs-up and some friendly treatment. He (Barry) has an engaging twinkle in his eye that serves the show well, although when trying to sound arch, he has a tendency to come across as one of the jolly narrators on a newsreel from the 40s,” the preview says.

“Melba can well understand the inclination to be nice to a colleague, but shouldn’t there have been an acknowledgement that Barry works for the same newspaper?

“Incidentally, Melba is disappointed Barry didn’t touch any of the Fairfax titles on Monday night. This invites us to conclude there was no reason to be critical of any story, headline, caption. photo, cartoon, opinion or editorial from any Fairfax paper published during the preceding week.”

We’d like to see that!

(Ed’s note: As a rule Crikey is a big fan of Media Watch and its role as a media watchdog. However, just like The Australian’s Media section fails to criticise News Ltd enough, Paul Barry needs to start sticking the boots into Fairfax.)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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