Crikey has been sacked from the regular Tuesday morning segment with Rod Henshaw on ABC Brisbane for publishing a colleague anonymously criticising Aunty’s Brisbane morning host Susan Mitchell. Let’s take a look at how it all unfolded and then hear what you’ve got to say.

AUNTY’S AGONY IN BRISBANE

Sealed section item from April 4

A Brisbane-based subscriber writes:

Brisbane’s 612 4QR morning program was fronted last year by veteran Aunty presenter Andrew Carroll, who returned to the airwaves after a stint working as a media advisor to the Beattie Government. Towards the end of last year he was basically sacked by ABC management after he (Carroll) complained on air about a regular Friday segment with Beattie being pulled by management and muttered that he would have to examine the terms of his contract. That dispute – with Carroll seeking re-instatement – is still before the IRC and this is what the Courier Mail ran about it on Wednesday: (link now broken due to hopeless News Ltd archiving system)

Carroll’s replacement is one Susan Mitchell, an academic from ‘down south’ who has had considerable problems coming to grips with the Queensland milieu. (for example she has referred to ‘Mike Quinn and Bob Horan’ when it should be Mike Horan and Bob Quinn – National and Liberal party leaders respectively, and has also referred – with no tongue in cheek – to Beattie’s ‘mates in the AWU when everyone knows Beattie loathes the AWU!)

Anyway, Mitchell is – according to gossip around the corridors of the Toowong studios – on a three month contract worth $60,000 (which if renewed over the course of a year should prove to be a nice little earner).

Interestingly, one of the most popular segments on Mitchell’s show is a horse racing tips segment on a Friday morning – “Mary’s tips”. “Mary” just happens to be Mitchell’s live-in partner, and ABC staffers would like to presume she is not receiving a stipend for her efforts, particularly since the link has never been disclosed.

ends

This elicited a response from ABC management:

IN DEFENCE OF SUSAN MITCHELL

Sealed section from April 5

Dear Stephen,

I read with interest your piece on 612 ABC Brisbane and Susan Mitchell in particular. The Courier Mail’s assertion that Susan Mitchell has “had considerable problems coming to grips with the Queensland Milieu” based on one incident in Susan’s first weeks in the job, is a fairly typical generalisation in the reporting of line up changes on 612.

What hasn’t been mentioned to date is the fact that Susan is maintaining the same audience share as her predecessor at the same time last year. Nor is there mention of the increased audience ‘Reach’ or numbers of people listening to the station, or the positive feedback about Susan’s performance which more than balances the reported negative comments.

I am also disappointed that Crikey would print unsourced corridor gossip, thereby giving it some factual status in the eyes of readers. In fact the details of Susan’s contract are confidential and the so called gossip is incorrect.

Finally with regard to ‘Mary’s tips’, the Mary in question is an acquaintance of Susan’s, no she is not being paid and as the segment is an area of lighter output within a Current Affairs program, I am the only person who needed to know of the link. I do know about it and I approved it.

Regards,

Mike McGowan

Manager ABC Local Radio QLD

ends

The Courier Mail took an interest in the initial item and ran this story on Friday, April 5.

The bottom line edited by Chris Griffith

MAYNE LINE OFF THE RAILS

BY Crikey! Stephen Mayne’s mailout yesterday included a juicy claim that 612 ABC presenter Susan Mitchell is on a three-month contract worth $60,000. It also claimed the “Mary” in Mitchell’s race tipping segment “Mary’s tips” was her “live-in partner”.

The ABC denies the $60,000 claim — which would see Mitchell earn more than the PM and three to four times that of other broadcasters.

ABC local radio manager Mike McGowan said the “Mary” link had been declared and she was not paid.

So what becomes of Crikey after bollocking Auntie ABC? Up to now he has enjoyed a local ABC radio segment with Rod Henshaw. Maybe Mary can give us a tip.

ends

The Courier Mail had a second go on Monday, April 8.

ABC BOSSES RATE MITCHELL

ABC local radio’s new head honcho Mike McGowan has gone in guns blazing for presenter Susan Mitchell, but parts of his defence are shaky.

McGowan dismissed Crikey.com’s claims last week that Mitchell is on a three-month contract worth $60,000. He also took a shot at this newspaper’s commentary on her on-air slip when she mixed up Opposition politicians Bob Quinn and Mike Horan.

In truth, Mitchell herself is happy to say she’s still learning and regularly asks her listeners for help in getting to know Brisbane.

McGowan also said the press had overlooked the fact the ABC’s morning ratings were on a par with those of former host Andrew Carroll this time last year. The two hosts are running equal, both grabbing 7.7 per cent audience share for their respective timeslots.

But that fact has not been ignored by The Courier-Mail — an April 3 article quoted ABC Queensland director Chris Wordsworth making the very same point.

ends

CRIKEY SACKED

Mike McGowan then delivered the bullet to Crikey in an email on Monday, April 15:

“Dear Stephen,

My apologies for taking so long to get back to you, I’ve been away from the office and the email.

The short answer is no, it wasn’t intended for publication. However I do think an apology on the site for the incorrect information regarding Susan’s salary would be appropriate.

I’ve also asked Rod Henshaw to discontinue the segment with you on his program as it might be seen to support or condone the site which has published incorrect and I must say fairly nasty material about one of my Broadcasters.

Regards, Michael McGowan

ends

The Courier Mail then picked up on the story on Thursday, April 18 when they this piece on page 2:

CRIKEY HE’S AXED

By Kathryn Torpy

ABC radio has dumped a segment with media watcher Stephen Mayne, pictured, after a slinging match over morning show host Susan Mitchell’s salary.

ABC Queensland’s new head of local radio, Mike McGowan, instructed breakfast host Rod Henshaw to dump Mayne’s five-minute business and investment segment, heard on Tuesdays for the past 16 months.

The directive came after Crikey, Mayne’s subscriber e-mail newsletter, ran a claim that Mitchell is on a three-month contract worth $60,000.

The e-newsletter claimed the “Mary” in Mitchell’s race-tipping segment “Mary’s tips” was her “live-in partner”.

McGowan responded by dismissing the salary claims, and saying the “Mary” link had been declared to management and “Mary” was not paid. The response appeared in the e-newsletter the next day, but McGowan requested an apology be published on Mayne’s website.

Mayne said yesterday that he would not apologise.

“I just ran some rumours from an ABC insider, then I’ve run management’s version of events,” he said.

Breakfast host Rod Henshaw said yesterday he was sorry to see Mayne go.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Stephen and I’m sorry this has

MIKE McGOWAN RESPONDS TO A COMPLAINT

Dear Mr Price,

Thank for your email regarding Stephen Mayne. Unfortunately the reasons you put forward for Stephen’s segment being dropped are not correct.

In an article on his website Crikey.com, Stephen chose to publish corridor gossip, supposedly gained from an ABC employee, about one of my program makers. The information he published was not only wrong in fact, it was malicious and in my opinion unprofessional.

The ABC is a professional organisation which operates under very strict editorial guidelines. If I was to allow Stephen on one of my radio programs after what he published, I would be condoning his actions and potentially damaging the ABC’s reputation. I would also be failing to support my staff who were annoyed and upset that the material in question was allowed to be published with no testing of the veracity of the so called gossip.

I hope that helps clarify the situation from the ABC’s point of view and again thank you for taking the time to write.

Yours sincerely,

Mike McGowan

Manager ABC Local Radio, QLD

YOUR FEEDBACK

WHY DID AUNTY HIRE MITCHELL

I was interested to see Susan Mitchell’s name surface this week. Frankly, I’m stumped as to why Aunty hired her.

As far as I can tell from listening to her each morning, she makes no effort to be informed about the issues she covers. Only yesterday, she was rabbiting about the upcoming COAG meeting, and bemoaning that all the state and territory heads of government were men. Umm, well, someone should tell Clare Martin that…

As for the issue of her partner giving the racing tips each Friday morning – what really perturbs me about that is, what the heck is the ABC doing, promoting gambling on the ponies? Believe me, she and her tipster actively encourage folks to lay bets… boy, you should have heard Susan on the Monday following her freebie day at the races…

Name Withheld

WAS THIS ABOUT SEXUALITY

I like the idea that media people disclose. There are always public dimensions to purely private intentions, but are you sure this attention is not just because they might be dikes? How about Lyn Hultaine and Francis Leach? I can’t see how the issues are fundamentally different and no one seems to have raised that, except The Age, where it was a bit of non-issue anyway.

In giving you the flick, the ABC looks a bit precious, I think, but it might have been nice to have had a bit more balance in the original article and avoid the criticism that it was all a bit of a tilt at those who enjoy the company of their own sex.

Name Withheld

CARROL WAS TOO SOFT AND SUSAN IS DOING WELL

I listen to ABC radio in Brisbane. My opinions only….

Andrew Carroll *was* extremely soft on Beattie and others. I don’t think it was intended bias.. but simply his style. He was soft across the board.

Susan Mitchell has been surprisingly tough as an interviewer. She had a nice little ding-dong fight on air with Jim Soorley (Brisbane Lord Mayor) who has had *NO-ONE* asking him tough questions for many years… we needed an outsider who wasn’t aware of the “rules” !.

I wasn’t aware of the racing tips thing.. but I rate Susan Mitchell much much higher than Andrew Carroll so far.

As for the Crikey segment being canned from Henshaw’s show: it is totally ridiculous. Aunty needs to grow up.

Brisbane resident

MITCHELL HAS EXPOSED SOORLEY

Crikey-team,

Timely follow-on what what I wrote yesterday: Susan Mitchell and Jim Soorley on air yesterday… She manages to bring out the agro in him everytime ! They had another verbal stoush yesterday (Soorley again came off the loser). Subject was “Fire Fighters need better markings showing where the hydrants are”… Soorley, attacking the person not the issue, came out with “they just sit around playing cards and posing for calendars” …

In my opinion, Soorley is an arrogant dickhead with a Napoleon-complex. Susan Mitchell is probably the best I’ve heard at exposing that to the public.

Subscriber

MITCHELL WENT WAY TOO FAR

I was totally disgusted with the Susan Mitchell’s continuing poor interviewing skills and then her personal attack on the Lord Mayor in this morning’s “interview” regarding Cats’ Eyes Markers for Fire Hydrants.

Firstly the topic does not really register a movement on the Richter scale of importance or interest. But, we the audience had to guess what the topic was about because Susan didn’t adequately introduce it. We had to piece it together from what the union representative was saying.

The Lord Mayor explained the position of the Council. I was then quite satisfied that he was acting in the interests of Brisbane City rate payers. (Susan should remember her audience comprises more of these than members of the firefighters union.)

Susan Mitchell then felt frustrated at the Lord Mayor’s measured and considered response. He had totally defused her amatuerish attempt to create an issue where quite obviously there was not. She then resorted to a personal attack by calling him arrogant simply because he pointed out that $65m raised from BCC rate payers was available and that the firefighters themselves had the time to install the Markers.

A debate then followed over the ratings of the “interviewer”. I was impressed by the Lord Mayor’s ability to keep well in control, but S&M sounded as if she was losing it. I would be very surprised if the ratings had not fallen! I for one listen to Radio National more often now, thanks to S&M’s mediocre attempts to be a shock jock. Or should that be sock jockette? Brisbane doesn’t have a “parrot” (aka Alan Jones), but looks like we’ve got a Major Mitchell Cockatoo (or should it be a minor Mitchell galah?).

This is but the most recent example of Susan Mitchell’s continuing demonstration of her problems in the job. I have intending to voice my disapproval on many occasions since SM came to 612 ABC. This morning’s effort just shook me out of my complacency.

The standards of radio journalism demonstrated by Susan Mitchell seem to be inversely proportional to ABC management’s sensitivity to any criticism of her. It appears that the Shareholder Activist from Crikey.com is no longer welcome on Rod Henshaw’s morning show because of some factual, but not complimentary statements about SM published on the Crikey website. This censorship and inability to tolerate valid criticism is dragging the ABC to the standards of the shock jock stations.

My advice for the ABC would be to move SM out of a current affairs slot until she finishes her contract, reinstate Andrew Carroll and bring back the Shareholder Activist!

Ian Cameron

BRING BACK CRIKEY

I feel compelled to write to the management of the ABC to express my disappointment at their lack of focus on serving their listeners.

The decision to no longer include regular contributions from Stephen Mayne in you morning broadcast appears to be made, not from views expressed by your listeners but rather by views expressed by a presenter. What I find more remarkable is that the presenter was not even associated with the regular broadcasts.

I, and a number of other people I have spoken to, have found Mayne’s comments to be insightful and provide an important public service in highlighting lack of accountability. Currently a number of Directors and former Directors are having their decisions and ethic brought into question in relation to HIH, One-Tel and a number of other companies. As a result of the recent Hartley’s decision some stock broking practices are also under focus. These are issues that Mayne has consistently shown a willingness to identify. Why do the media and media organisations believe that they are above such scrutiny?

It strikes me as an interesting paradox that the management of the ABC should seek to impose a form of censorship when one would have previously imagined that one of their unstated obligations would be to vigorously defend free speech. Given the decision in relation to Mayne one wonders about what management decisions are made out of the public spotlight relating to the reporting of ABC journalists.

When decisions are made for no other apparent reason then to pander to the personal views of an opinionated prima donna it calls into question the integrity and motives of all concerned. As a result the future of the ABC under its current management is a matter deep concern. What is the next decision to be made as a result of pressure from an unrepresentative transient minority?

Yours Sincerely, Frank Cost

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