The Crikey list of lily white journalists has created interest in the profession and this week we have published a substantially amended and improved version.

Paddy McGuiness, Jim Waley, Laurie Oakes, Trevor Sykes and Paul Kelly are just some of the people who have emailed us in relation to the lily white list of journalists we published two weeks ago.

There have been many others who have requested anonymity, such as the News Ltd editorial heavyweight who wrote: “Check out what David Armstrong was doing in the late 1970s.”

We’re still waiting for David’s reply so if anyone can help out here it would be much appreciated. Was The Australian’s editor-in-chief ever a spinner? Did he work for a politician?

Armstrong’s predecessor Paul Kelly bristled at suggestions he ever worked for a politician. This is what he wrote in reply to our email:

“I have never, with the stress on never, worked for a politician. The point of confusion is that before I entered journalism I worked in the Prime Minister’s Department in Canberra, along with working in several other areas of the Commonwealth bureaucracy as well. Anyone who suggests I worked for a politician will be in trouble!”

The Australian’s New York correspondent Stephen Romei sent a long email that can be read in full in the Yoursay section. He echoed the call made my many that being a political spinner in NSW made him a better journalist. I felt my experience with Kennett did likewise – an experience on the dark side certainly opens any journalists eyes. However, the trick is to not stay on the dark side – as Romei hasn’t. Get back into journalism and, ideally, don’t write too much about the person or political party you worked for, especially in the first couple of years.

A couple of people have complained about Herald Sun backbencher Shane Burke being called a lily white because of the biased campaign he ran with his then editor in chief Piers Akerman in 1991-92 to bring down the Kirner government in Victoria. Journalists who are biased or run political campaigns are arguably commiting a bigger sin than directly selling out which at least is transparent.

A couple of people have also complained about anyone from 3AW – particularly Steve Price and Neil Mitchell – being called lily whites because they were so pro-Kennett. It seems that more of our top business commentators have dabbled outside the profession than we realise. Not only did The Australian’s Bryan Frith work for Macquarie Bank and the AFR’s Alan Kohler worked for stockbroker James Capel, we’ve been advised that The Australian’s Robert Gottliebsen worked for failed stockbroking firm Patrick Partners in the 1970s between journalistic gigs. BRW’s Nicholas Way also worked for a broker at some point. It should be stressed that none of these people have ever been spinners and would probably subscribe to the Paddy McGuiness theory that they were good enough to get real jobs before returning to the “sheer luxury” of journalism.”

Special Offer: Names For Free Subscription

To help encourage more feedback on the lists, we will give a free subscription to anyone who can come up with 10 new names or corrections to any of the nine lists on the site. This week we have added our first political list covering where former ministers work, but this is far from complete and provides ample opportunity to get a free subscription. And we know there are lots of political and journalistic names from outside the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra triangle that we have missed. If you are not a journalist or spinner, we’ll grant a free subscription to anyone who can come up with six corrections or new names. There is much potential in the foreign ownership lists in the business section as we suspect there is up to 30 more foreign companies turning over more than $200 million a year in Australia.

Please send all replies to boss and let us know your thoughts on the question of eligibility for the lists. Do you subscribe to the Paddy McGuiness and Stephen Romei theories or are you a purist who thinks that anyone who leaves the profession, no matter what for, should not be called a lily white?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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