Crikey took a very heavy call from Channel Seven reporter Brendan Donohoe on September 25 as is spelt out below. We’re still waiting for him to apologise for making threats and therefore put this on the record.

—- Brendan Donohoe, Channel Seven State political reporter and husband of Caroline Wilson, chief football writer at The Age, speaking to Crikey by telephone on Tuesday September 25.

Can I say at the outset that you should not take this threat seriously because Brendan is a gentle fun-loving guy and he was very hot under the collar at the time of the call because Caro was upset.

This may surprise you but Crikey actually hates conflict whether over the phone or face to face so I was a bit rattled as this was the heaviest call I’ve received in two years as a web publisher.

I wouldn’t normally go public with this but there are a couple of important points to be made about what Crikey can and cannot write and how journalists should deal with this. In my view this is yet another demonstration of the fact that journalists are the most thin-skinned group of people around who can readily dish it out but can’t take it.

Let’s deal with the history first. These are the two paragraphs from Tuesday’s sealed section email to Crikey subscribers which so upset Brendan and prompted the call:

“Finally, it’s good to see The Age’s chief football writer Caroline Wilson giving the AFL some real stick about the stitch up of AFL members over Grand Final tickets: http://www.realfooty.theage.com.au/news/2001/09/23/FFXNH9YAWRC.html

Speaking of Caro, we mentioned a couple of months back that she was an ex of 3AW presenter Steve Price. It should be stressed that this was a fleeting thing almost 20 years ago which should not be dwelt on.”

This history before that is this sealed section which went out to subscribers on August 15:

ABC RADIO’S AD HOC TALENT POLICY

So, Jon Faine told us yesterday that 774 ABC Melbourne has a policy that their talent cannot go on rival station 3AW. This is why hard-hitting Herald Sun conservative Andrew Bolt is no longer heard on Faine’s Conversation Hour because he’s taken the 3AW moolah. Well how do we explain the situation with The Age’s chief football reporter Caroline Wilson. Caro gets paid to appear on ABC radio from midday till 1pm with Tim Lane on 774 each Saturday. So why is she allowed to also get paid for a half hour segment on 3AW’s Sports Tonight with Gerard Healy and David Hookes each Tuesday. The Age are pretty generous with Caro – who is an ex of Steve Price’s – because they also allow her to get paid handsomely to appear on Seven’s Talking Footy each Tuesday Night. When you throw in a regular gig on ABC radio Adelaide, you’ve got to ask yourself when does she get time to fulfil her Age duties. Then again, Caro is one of the best journalists in Melbourne and it is all good promotion for The Age provided she doesn’t give her best stories away to ABC Radio, 3AW or Seven’s Talking Footy. Can anyone think of a journalist with more gigs than Caro at the moment?

Ends

Now Brendan rang at the time to express his displeasure at the mention of the Price history claiming it was not relevant. We had a long debate and I won’t mention the detail of what he said because it was off the record. However, I still regard it to be a “harmless factual aside”. It is true that it does not say whether Caro is an ex-wife or whether the relationship happened two years or 20 years ago.

Brendan did not ask for an apology or clarification but what went out yesterday left the facts completely clear – Caroline Wilson fleetingly dated Steve Price almost 20 years ago. So what.

Then you get to the question of Brendan’s breathtaking hypocrisy which causes me to stick to the guns. You see Brendan is one of the biggest smart-alec journalists around. There should be more like him. He loves embarrassing politicians, gossiping and even exposing the flaws of his fellow journalists. There is a large body of evidence that he regularly spreads hot personal gossip and has been a valuable source of material for Sunday Age gossip columnist Lawrence Money over the years. If Brendan wants me to start getting specific I’m more than happy to do so.

Caro is also more than willing to sink the slipper and this is what makes her such a great journalist. I do recall something that 3AW TV gossip Anntenna once said about Naomi Robson.

It is not a grievous attack on Brendan’s family to factually state that Caroline Wilson once briefly dated Steve Price.

I would not object if Brendan, Caro or anyone else started mentioning names of my ex girlfriends over the years. And if one of them employed me somewhere, then a media critic would have every right to mention it in passing. There was never a suggestion that Caro gets her 3AW gigs because of this connection as I’ve stated every time that she is an outstanding journalist.

If it was Channel Nine state political reporter David Broadbent ringing up you would take it more seriously because Broadie is as straight as a die, helps young reporters and does not spread gossip, play tricks on rivals or leak like a sieve.

But for Brendan Donohoe to get on his high horse is pure hypocrisy and he should get a grip on himself, calm down, move on and not make any more threatening phone calls.

If Brendan would like this to be removed from Crikey immediately he should just ring, apologise for apparently making a threat and move on.

He’s perfectly entitled to hate Crikey, never speak to me, bag me to colleagues, stop reading Crikey and cancel his subscription, but I’m not going to put up with wild phone calls from a serial gossip upset with some ancient factual snippet about his wife.

Maybe I’m calling this incorrectly so I’d be interested in any feedback from other journalists out there to [email protected] and please spell out if you’re on or off the record. This is some of what has come in so far:

Murdoch tabloid hack opens fire

Dear Crikey,

your bizarre piece on Caroline Wilson and Brendan Donohoe was a breathtaking pile of hypocritical crap. You can’t even spell Brendan’s last name. Overall, the Crikey site is unethical, inaccurate, juvenile and filled with spelling mistakes, character assassinations and dubious stories.

But good luck to you and your family.

John Ferguson

Herald Sun State Political Reporter

Even the Yanks have a view

Hello from Chicago, IL USA,

New to your site, the first article read was the one entitled “Don’t Bother Reading This”, always one to challenge any contra-suggestion, it works fabulously with a select group of us, but you knew that.

“Thin-skinned” may be the secondary moral of the story, taking it at face value, without the historical knowledge of the media players in Aus. The comment made re Steve Price was not relevant to the professional accomplishments of Caroline Wilson, but indicates at a possible personal accomplishment. It was dropped into the story to draw a reaction, most likely from the most thin-skinned, relative to the story, and he stepped right up to the plate.

Why is apologizing necessary? You bite, you get bit back. You go back to your corners, lick your wounds, and get ready for the next round.

Here, give me your finger. I’m just going to put it in this electrical outlet, no, no, it’s all right, it’s not going to hurt, it’s just going to zap you for a milli-second, zzzzzzzzzz, there, that wasn’t too bad, was it?

“But, why did you have to do that?” Cause life’s kinda dull without the buzz, isn’t it?

That’s the primary moral of the story, in my opinion.

I will visit your site again. Thank you for the zap.

LP/Chicago

Nice guy Brendan, but, 05

I just read the piece on Brendon – all true, nice guy on the surface but off the record would stick the knife in as quick as look at you. Always trying to shaft poor old Broadie, who contiunes to have the last laugh ratings wise..

Journalist

You deserved it Crikey

Stephen

He might have given you both barrels but I can imagine why he did it.

It is similar to the recent article you ran about the PM’s gay staffers. It is an unnecessary intrusion into people’s personal lives.

Your life might be an open book but you cannot assume that for everyone. I recall Jill Singer was a bit cranky when you dropped the line that you and her had a fling when she was working at Channel 7.

Of course it is good reading! But it is not what you do best. Stick to the Crikey philosophy:

“Crikey will point out theft, corruption, deception and collusion whenever and where it can. It is our self appointed task to take a long thin spike to the bloated egos of political and corporate Australia and to take clear black and white snap shots of the men and women who have their fingers in the till or who simply get paid too much for doing shoddy work. We will at all times try to have fun, respect the laws of our country in as far as they makes sense and to fill the gaps the Australian media seem unable or unwilling to fulfil.”

Name withheld

Hypocritical, precious and glass-jawed

Steve

Brendan’s behaviour as you have described it is one of the things that makes people most irate at journos in general – the absolutely hypocritical, precious, glass-jawed inability to accept back what they dish out to everyone else. Many journos see themselves as having an unrestricted licence to insult, belittle and sneer at anyone they choose to pick on (they don’t usually pick their bosses unless they have a career death wish or an alternative career already lined up), but despite having the obvious advantage of always being able to have the last word, they recoil in horror and dismay (sometimes feigned, often genuine – the latter being the psychologically fascinating part) at anyone having the temerity to use their own techniques on them (and usually, what they get upset about is something far less vitrolic than what they have said about others).

Of course this is a generalisation – there are fundamentally decent, fair, well-balanced journalists out there – but as a generalisation, it is one of the least attractive features of your profession.

Name withheld

Spot on Crikey

Dear Crikey,

You are spot-on about thin-skinned journos. We could all talk for hours about the hypocrisy of media people. Some of the work (and bludging) practices in media companies make Coles Myer look like the paragon of efficiency. I see things that, if they were found at BHP or in a government department, would have columnists jumping up and down for weeks. Journos constantly slag off at each other, spread wild rumours and produce stories on the barest of evidence.

Every time I see an instance of media intrusion, I think “what if this were the reporter’s family”.

Media companies run on raw ego. It has always been thus, and it makes me want to spew.

Jock McSprocket

What a delicate little petal

Crikey!

I’ll preface this by saying that I am not a journalist, so you can take this as you want.

What a delicate little petal. Jeez, if someone said something about what my wife/partner did 20 years ago, is it really such a drama? Perhaps he just found out about it. That would make me a bit shirty, not enough to threaten another’s family though. But, does it really matter?

What sort of goose goes around threatening a family? Real big man. What a wuss. A real wuss. He is on Channel 7 isn’t he? From now on I don’t watch 7 news. Didn’t anyway, but stuff him. I am disgusted that he would carry on like a 10 year old and act like that. I guess we know he is a wearer of big frilly knickers.

Dusty

CRIKEY: As I said earlier, you shouldn’t take Brendan’s threat seriously and he’ll probably calm down. He may be a big working class boy from Thornbury who spent a few years hanging around unionists as industrial reporter on The Age, but I’ve never even seen him get angry before let alone go over the top like this. The Jill Singer thing was first mentioned in public by Jeff Kennett. He even had a boozy lunch with the editorial bosses of the Herald Sun arguing that she’d somehow corrupted me. John Ferguson’s attack is similar to what he said after Crikey reported that Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden had taken up publicly with his secretary. The rationale was the old “do unto others” doctrine after Blunden splashed Dick Pratt and his lover all over the front page but Ferg still seems to think journalists should not be treated in the same way as they treat others. I’d be interested to see how Ferg reacted if some politician rang and said the same thing to him. It is surprising that this old relationship has not been mentioned in public before given that Price hired Caro in 1994-95 to replace Sarah Henderson in the afternoon slot on 3AW. She didn’t stay for along but did a good job and 3AW were disappointed when she walked away.

Peter Fray

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