Journalists are always happy to eat their own when given half a chance. Sadly, in the case of Jeff McMullen, not enough of us have sat back and analysed what he is saying.

Sacked 60 Minutes reporter Jeff McMullen should be lauded for refusing to go quietly when the money hungry Packer machine spat him out unceremoniously a couple of weeks back.

Packer and Murdoch have far too much power in this country. They have politicians on both sides in their pockets and a legion of minions who run around doing their political and journalistic bidding.

Who was the last long-time Packer employee to speak out against the business practices of Australia’s most powerful man. I can’t think of anyone.

And can anyone name a long-time Murdoch staffer who has spoken out against his journalistic regime which doesn’t even pretend to cover company affairs impartially.

The only reason Helen Dalley and the Sunday program had to rely on Crikey’s recollections of Col Allan in their recent profile of Rupert’s most powerful Australian editorial executive was that everyone else was too afraid to speak out.

It is supremely ironic that these two multi-billionaires have got rich on the publicly spoken word yet they are both control-freaks when it comes to what is said about them publicly.

One of the first rules of journalism is that you do not attack an insider who speaks out against a systemic problem, whatever the motivations.

If they are adding to the public consciousness and exposing something that is wrong then they should be applauded and their insights examined for what they are: insights.

The Herald Sun’s token left-wing columnist Jill Singer wrote an excellent column on this very subject on November 24. Like Crikey, Singer is talking her own book somewhat because she was sacked by Channel Seven and then subsequently criticised them publicly.

Crikey did the whistleblowers routine about Jeff Kennett on Four Corners in 1997 and was amazed at the amount of scrutiny that was placed on my motives and credibility. Thank god I really had left Kennett’s office on good terms and was a well-regarded staffer. Heaven help the whistleblower who might have a bit of an axe to grind. Don’t bother, I say, the media will just pillory you for sour grapes and largely ignore the substance of what you’re saying.

That odious jerk Piers Akerman and various others who have sneered at Jeff McMullen should take note of what Singer wrote. Try these comments from the sewing machine for size:

“But if we don’t listen to disgruntled high flyers, who will drive the debate on journalistic ethics,” she wrote.

And when explaining her own experience in being sacked by Seven’s Today Tonight program, the sewing machine wrote:

“The most awful part is not losing your juicy salary. It’s seeing your media ‘colleagues’ conspire in sniggering campaigns against people such as Jeff McMullen, who at least has the gumption to risk professional leprosy by airing his disappointment.”

Well said Jill, let’s hope Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden tolerates your leftism for many more months.

There is a list as long as Crikey’s arm of former Murdoch staffers in the UK who have dumped on the Dirty Digger for his questionable journalistic and political tactics. Yet in Australia there is no-one accept Crikey who has spoken out from the inside against his abuses of power.

Let’s hope the example of Jeff McMullen will encourage more supposedly principled journalists who find themselves doing something dodgy for Murdoch or Packer to stop accepting their filthy lucre and then actually speak out publicly against what they see.

Congratulations to Jeff McMullen for refusing to go quietly and for landing a huge punch in the guts of cheque book journalism which is practiced more than anyone by the Australian with the biggest cheque-book. May you sleep well at night from here on.

Peter Fray

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