Radio history was created after Stan Zemanek admitted he’d have to lie down and take a valium after a particularly stressful interview. Trouble is, it would have been a stroll in the park if Stan wasn’t such a dill.
It was one of the funniest moments on radio I have ever heard.
Stan was trying to break a story and stir some trouble and his interviewee, Julie McDonald wouldn’t bite. The issue was toned down and put into perspective by Julie so Stan couldn’t apply his shock jock tactics. But he tried and he tried… and he tried…
The Foreign Affairs Department had put out a reissued alert statement warning people to be careful if travelling to Iraq. The main point was – Australians are advised not to visit Iraq. Australians in Iraq should leave the country as soon as possible using currently available commercial means.
It was a reissued alert that comes out every 3 months or when important details change. A notice appears on the top of the travel alert:
“This advice has been reviewed and reissued without substantive change to the information or advice provided.”
3AW had missed the first line of the alert telling them it was reissued and took the rest of it as a recent event. It was originally issued straight after the September 11 attacks and reflective of that period. It concluded that Iraq was in danger of a US attack and therefore a dangerous place to be.
When Stan read it out, it was like the alert had just been released and it seemed a US attack was imminent. With all the talk of US attacking Iraq last week, Stan thought he had a major story. It was not to be.
I recall the conversation going something like this (I didn’t record this bit so it’s from memory):
JM: This is a reissued alert.
SZ: So it’s safe to travel to Iraq.
JM: No, the situation is still delicate and as the alert says, it’s advised that people stay away from Iraq.
SZ: So, the US are going to attack Iraq?
JM: No, I don’t know that.
SZ: Surely you have talked to your colleagues?
JM: I am only the media spokesperson. I don’t know of an immediate plan to attack Iraq.
SZ: So it’s safe then to travel to Iraq?
JM: No it’s not.
SZ: Is there going to be an attack then?
Etc etc etc
Julie obviously had had enough of this sensationalism and after years of dealing with important issues and intelligent people, this was just too much.
JM: I really think the radio stations should take a more responsible attitude before they set hares running.
Stan went absolutely berserk.
SZ: Well, I’m pleased you said that, I’m pleased you said that, but I wasn’t going to bring it up. Look, I gotta tell you that for the last hour and a half we’ve been trying to get on to your department, our news room has been trying to get on to your department and we have been getting the run around. Now I have tried to be nice about this and tried to be friendly about it but your department, I gotta to say, have been the most inactive people, when this advice went. Nobody bothered to ring us back. We couldn’t get on to anybody. We’ve been duck-shoved everybody so please don’t put it back on the radio stations … If you want to blame anybody for anybody going out with this alert, stations, then blame your bloody selves.
But Julie McDonald stuck to her guns.
JM: I do think you should check your information.
SZ: No, no, no – you should check yourselves, you should check yourselves, you should check yourself, you should check yourself … because it’s your department that haven’t been cooperative with the radio stations AND maybe if you were cooperative with the radio stations maybe we might have some more information.
JM: The information is freely available on the web site… would you like me to give you the address?
Stan didn’t like that. Too logical. Stan blows his stack again.
SZ: No, no, no, no. Why wouldn’t you, why wouldn’t you talk to us over the last hour and a half?
JM: We have had about 55 calls in the last hour and a half…
SZ: (Cutting off Julie) Well I wonder why? I WONDER WHY?
JM: Because radio stations are setting hares running by being irresponsible.
SZ: Radio stations are not setting the hares running at all. I mean, you have, can I just tell you something… You, you put, you, you put the, you put the thingo out, you put the alert out and we’ve been trying now to get you for the last hour and a half. Nobody from Foreign Affairs wanted to talk to us, nobody from Foreign Affairs wanted to talk to ah, to the ah um ah newsroom as well so obviously everybody is getting their knickers in a knot.
JM: We got back to you at the first available chance.
SZ: No you haven’t (2 times).
SZ: I’m sorry, you haven’t.
JM: I’m sorry we did try.
SZ: No you haven’t.
Foreign Affairs explained to a 3AW producer initially that it was a reissued travel alert and there is no need to discuss it further. 3AW insisted they get a statement from them so after finishing her current urgent commitments, Julie spoke to Stan.
SZ: We have been trying to get you for an hour and a half and you haven’t come back to us. We have been duck shoved from everywhere and I have to tell you it is appalling, the actual communication from the Foreign Affairs Department and I’m sure if Mr. Downer found out how appalling your communication is… he would be horrified… (Julie starts to laugh).
Foreign Affairs is one of the few government departments that offer 24/7 service. They are renowned for their prompt, attentive response to requests for information.
JM: Well I think that’s your statement, that’s 3AW’s opinion.
SZ: No that’s not 3AW’s opinion, that’s my opinion, Stan Zemanek, Julie, thank you very much, and I appreciate your time that you’ve spent with us on the radio program.
JM: You’re very welcome, goodbye.
SZ: No I don’t think I’m very welcome, thank you very much, there you go, there’s a public servant for you. Hung up, honestly, I was quite prepared to be nice but she put it back on to us that we are the problem.
SZ: They put out the alert, she obviously has had a bad hair day.
Stan was so cocky. How dare someone be too busy not drop everything to talk to Stan Zemanek / 3AW?
How dare someone tell 3AW they didn’t do their research?
SZ: This is one of the biggest news rooms in the whole of Australia, we feed over what ? …60, 70, 80, 100 stations whatever it is…AND they don’t get back to us in over an hour and a half.
Julie actually got back to 3AW 20 minutes after Foreign Affairs advised they would.
SZ: Errrrrrgh. Public Servants. I tell ya, if I was Prime Minister they would be out of a job.
Stan then dropped this statement. I am still trying to work it out!
SZ: Fair dinkum, I was quite prepared to be nice and polite to her and I think I was. AND she wanted to put it back on us… We are the fort. Shoot the messenger, that’s it shoot the messenger.
And finally after being beaten at his own game, Stan said…
SZ: I’m going to have a valium and lie down.
This whole interview was a display of a shock jock at work. Unfortunately for the shock jock, the interviewee didn’t fall for his traps and played with a straight bat. Completely frustrated, Stan tried all sorts of tricks to make his circus-like radio program more colourful but it just exposed him as a rock ape with a microphone.
The clean up operation
After the hourly news, Rock Ape came back, trying to stay cool after his embarrassing interview but was obviously shaken up.
He tried to explain that the Department of Foreign Affairs had been difficult with 3AW producers and several other radio stations that incidentally belong to 3AW’s parent company, Southern Cross Broadcasting.
He mentioned 2UE, 4BC, 6PR and 5AA had definitely rang Foreign Affairs and got the run around. He capped it off by telling the audience that if you were going to talk to anyone, you would talk to Southern Cross.
SZ: We are the biggest talk network in the whole of Australia and we own all the major radio stations er, for the, in the, ah talk network in those markets and if you had any brains, who would you talk to first if you are going to put an alert out? You’d talk to us, wouldn’t you?
He then called them imbeciles, again questioned if Alexander Downer knew how bad they were and added some more abuse.
SZ: Some of these Public Servants… If they had another brain it would be lonely.
One of the main points Stan was making was they had tried for an hour and a half to contact them and they got the supreme run-around. This was simply a lie. I spoke to Julie McDonald and she filled me in on some truths.
* Julie said she had 55 calls from other people who had enquiries about other alerts.
* Only 3 radio stations contacted them – 3AW, 2UE and one other.
* Apart from 3AW, only The Herald-Sun reported the alert. (Why did the rest of Australia’s media get it right except these two media outlets?) The Herald-Sun understood the mix up and left it at that.
* It was explained to 3AW it was just a reissued travel alert but 3AW insisted someone make a statement. 3AW were pushy and wouldn’t accept a simple explanation.
* The interest of the Stan Zemanek show in the issue or being interviewed on air was never mentioned prior to the interview. Julie was surprised to find herself suddenly being interviewed, live on the Stan Zemanek Show.
* Julie spoke to 3AW 20 minutes after they agreed to give a statement, not an hour and a half.
3AW should be ashamed.
Zemanek was trying to trap Julie McDonald into making a statement that he could then take out of context and start blowing the situation up. It makes for good ratings. 3AW made a mistake and by abusing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Julie McDonald, they tried to quickly shift the blame. No wonder Stanley [CRIKEY: actually, it’s “Stanislaw”, but Aussie Stan doesn’t like to be reminded of that] is called a “shock jock”.
I must say though, it was just hysterical listening. I noticed that even Julie couldn’t help it and laughed at one point. Julie said that it was just so ridiculous and obvious it was contrived to get a reaction that she laughed.
Someone named Steve rang in later on and said he can’t help but listen because Zemanek is so embarrassing.
Sort of like Frank Spencer or Basil Fawlty, I suppose.
Good on you, Julie McDonald, for being so very professional. You persevered patiently, trying to answer silly and inane questions and congratulations for not bending to a bullying, obnoxious, arrogant, shock jock like Stan Zemanek.
Who wrote this piece?
We published a letter in yoursay saying this mate of Julie McDonald’s should have disclosed their identity, which prompted this email from the author:
Disclose of the author of the attack on author of Stan attack?
I am wondering why someone would really want to know my identity when they don’t reveal there own? Who are you Luke?
Might the humble ‘Luke _________’ work with Stanislaw at 3AW perhaps?
For the record, I don’t work with Julie MacDonald at DFAT nor have I personally met her. I was writing an article for my web site and I simply rang her to get her side of the story. She came to the phone and answered my questions. If anything, Julie was a bit cold in her responses. No beating up of her run in with Zemanek what so ever. This strikes me a total professional and hence the praise.
I actually did leave a ‘assumed name’ but crikey didn’t publish it.
I thought I was doing the right thing by finding out some facts before blabbing my mouth off.