Monday’s Media Watch has triggered a blizzard of correspondence between several of the parties which is all reproduced here on Crikey.

It was the sort of piece that will spark all the usual suspects to accuse Media Watch of running a soft left agenda under Marr.

This is true, but at least his attacks were well-researched and brilliantly executed. The final gag about the Parrot stopping women only sessions at Auburn pool meaning these poor Islamic girls won’t be able to swim when thrown overboard was just priceless.

Crikey has never met Marr, but he is without doubt the best Media Watch host we’ve had yet, in spite of his left wing themes.

Irrespective of his ideology, Marr is practicing investigative journalism. They are fiendishly checking facts and sourcing material to regularly show-up inaccuracies or distortions in the mainstream media. And he’s tackling the big issues week after week, albeit leaving some of his lefty mates alone a bit too much.

It is interesting that Media Watch posted on their website the responses of Janet Albrechtsen and Alan Jones but, for some reason Crikey could not find the Miranda Devine reply that was floating about the Herald yesterday.

It read as follows:

“Your list of demands reads as if it were prepared by a junior member of the Democrats Compliance Committee.

“If there is factual inaccuracy, point it out.

“Please send me a tape of the show as I will be watching Band of Brothers on non-taxpayer-funded Channel 9.”

Miranda Devine

Also someone should point out to Media Watch that Piers spells his name A-K-E-R-M-A-N. Not Ackerman, as it is on their site.

Meanwhile, us Melbourne folk can grizzle that Marr’s Media Watch is too Sydney-centric because he left the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt out of the attack when he has been a far worse offender than Devine.

But Bolt was getting grief elsewhere in the media as a sole subscriber opines:

“Crikey,

In reference to Andrew Bolt and his angle that he is the only journalist willing to discuss the fact that the Muslim religion itself is fundamentally flawed, explained he says “by most Muslim run countries lacking real democracy and low standards of living”.

He was on Compass last night discussing this fact along with others with a couple of Muslim researchers and intellectuals and a professor from RMIT who all showed up his lack of real insight. He seemed to be struggling to hold his line about what he had written in the Herald Sun when pressed by Geraldine Doogue.

Good to see a columnist have to justify their writings to people who have an in depth understanding of an issue.

Lachlan”

From the S11 sealed section

7. MIRANDA DEVINE VS MEDIA WATCH

It was a bit rich for Media Watch to claim Miranda Devine didn’t do any journalism on the gang rape story.

“You, and lots of other journalists, simply missed the story,” David Marr said on the program on Monday night.

However, it was a police contact of Devine’s who tipped her off to the gang rape story last July. The contact was concerned the story wasn’t getting a run, and therefore Sydney women were being put at risk. Devine passed on the tip to Sun-Herald deputy editor Peter Lynch who assigned police reporter John Kidman. The story ran on the front page the following Sunday. Kidman did a stellar job of reporting with no additional input from Devine, and was nominated for a Walkley.

But as you see, Devine did do some journalism. Maybe it wasn’t the kind David Marr approves of.

Meanwhile, Media Watch Executive Producer Peter McEvoy has sent this through about Devine:

“Dear Stephen,

Sorry about the spelling mistake in Piers’ name.

Thanks for your kind remarks on the program.

We try to be balanced and we’re more than happy to come down on some lefty columnists if we catch them stuffing up.

If you or your subscribers have any decent examples send them to [email protected] We check out all the tips we receive, and while we won’t whack it on line as quickly as Crikey, we’ll give it a good run if it stands up.

By the way, Miranda Devine’s reply is now on line: here

We pointed out some of her errors in her “cameo” appearance, but you’ll notice that her brief reply also contains a “factual inaccuracy”: Band of Brothers doesn’t start until 9.30pm, so Miranda, and everyone else, can catch Media Watch before turning over to find out what happened after D-Day.

We don’t want to compromise Miranda’s principles so we can’t send her a free ABC tape. We understand that for a fee, copies of Media Watch are available from “non-taxpayer-funded” media monitors.

Regards, Peter McEvoy”

8. JANET ALBRECHTSEN’S LAWYERS

Firstly, The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen had this to say about David Marr’s Media Watch on Monday night:

“Dear Stephen

Please check out Marr’s “research” before you laud him. Like you I do not know Marr but I now have very serious reservations about his professionalism given that his research amounting to “lifting” stuff from a Muslim blog spot and only checking it once I had questioned that blog spot source. And he then proceeded to pull quotes completely out of context – yet has the audacity to lay that same allegation at my feet. I can only wonder whether he read the research at all. If he had read the research, Marr would have had no basis for his lazy allegations. Once he had my response setting out the research, those allegations became more than lazy – they were dishonest. So much for upholding journalistic standards.

Kind regards

Janet Albrechtsen”

Meanwhile, Crullers writes:

Janet Albrechsten is fast earning a reputation as an “interesting” commentator. Yesterday, Crikey applauded Media Watch’s analysis of the media’s coverage of race issues.

While Crullers agrees that their analysis was good, I think everyone who was on Media Watch’s mailing list for their three questions had every right to either not respond or tell Media Watch to take a hike as Miranda Devine chose to.

But Albrechsten’s chain of correspondence including calling in the lawyers – was a strange way to deal with the media watchdog. It’s easy to comment in hindsight, but surely Albrechsten’s approach was only going to inflame an argument with Media Watch?

A sole subscriber adds:

“Dear Crikey,

I was very amused to see the letter from Janet Albrechtsen’s “lawyers” on the Media Watch website. Why was it Janet Albrechtsen’s lawyers and not News Limited (for which she writes) lawyers who responded on her behalf ?

Was it because her husband John O’Sullivan is a very senior partner (M&A), some would say the most senior, at Freehills? Nevertheless, given the ability and intellect of all Freehills lawyers, I am sure the partner concerned is charging full rates for her time and that she has fully considered the ethical issues that this relationship raises.”

– Ends –

The entire Albrechsten correspondence can be viewed: here

Having been on the end of many a petulant spray from lawyers with nothing better to do than justify their fees, we at Crikey were quite amused by some of these comments from Albrechsten’s lawyer, Freehills partner Leanne Norman:

“Mr Peter McEvoy

Executive Producer

Media Watch

6 September 2002

Dear Mr McEvoy

Our client made it clear to you in her response today to your letter of 5 September that she would be absent and uncontactable from 2.30pm on Friday, 6 September until 5pm on Monday, 9 September.

Our client also made it clear to you that you must not comment on her work on your program on Monday night without giving her a proper opportunity to respond to your comments.

For those reasons [Albrechsten has complete defences to Media Watch’s allegations, Media Watch is guilty of misrepresentation and lack of independent verification], among others, we are instructed to confirm that if you publish comments about our client or her work prior to her being able to respond to you on Tuesday, you will have acted unreasonably, unfairly and without an appropriate regard for the truth or falsity of your comments. Your publication will be judged in that light.

Yours faithfully, Freehills

Leanne Norman, Partner”

CRIKEY: Hmmm, that’s some hissy fit!

September 12 sealed section

10. MEDIA WATCH HITS BACK AT DEVINE AND ALBRECHTSEN

Media Watch EP Peter McEvoy writes:

“Dear Stephen,

It’s a bit rich for Crikey to back Miranda Devine’s silly spin on her coverage of the gang rapes. We didn’t say Miranda “didn’t do any journalism”. We said she made a cock eyed claim that there was a conspiracy of silence when, in fact, the police had been putting out press releases on the rapes for 10 months.

We sent Miranda some questions on this which can be viewed: here, but she failed to respond. Lost for words.

As for Janet Albrechtsen, what can we say except read the articles and sources that she used, and decide for yourself. We’ve added them to our website: here.

On Janet’s silly claims about our sources: our research methods are very different to hers. We received the tip based on Amir Butler’s research, and then we independently checked and compared the material. We contacted both Butler and Balvig before we contacted Janet.

Regards, Peter McEvoy

Media Watch Executive Producer

SLIGHT CORRECTION: PETER McEVOY vs MIRANDA DEVINE

A subscriber alerts us:

“Peter McEvoy made the following statement about Miranda Devine:

“We pointed out some of her errors in her “cameo” appearance, but you’ll notice that her brief reply also contains a “factual inaccuracy”: Band of Brothers doesn’t start until 9.30pm, so Miranda, and everyone else, can catch Media Watch before turning over to find out what happened after D-Day.

Although he is correct in stating that Band of Brothers starts at 9.30pm, in the week that Miranda wrote her reply, Band of Brothers started at 8.30pm and as with most of us Band of Brothers watchers, she probably thought that it would be starting at that time every week. So, factual inaccuracy yes, but probably a genuine mistake on her part.”

Sept 13 sealed section

12. MIRANDA DEVINE HITS BACK

Dear Stephen: Media Watch executive producer Peter McEvoy is misrepresenting the truth again. But that’s no surprise from someone who sends letters to columnists demanding to know what is in their thoughts.

It is a disgrace the women of Sydney were not properly warned about the gang rapists for ten months, until the Sun-Herald front-page story appeared last July, in fact. Media preoccupation with the Olympics in September, 2000, is partly to blame. But it is naive to claim, as McEvoy does, that journalists in this competitive market simply “missed” a story this big for so long.

Naive, too, is McEvoy’s belief in the police media unit, which sprays out a dozen press releases of dubious worth to newsroom faxes every day. As a former police reporter, I know their methods of warning the public were considerably more effective in equivalent public menace cases — Milat and granny-killer, for example.

It is perverse McEvoy thinks it is an “error” to raise questions about why the public was not alerted to the gang rapes earlier.

Miranda Devine

10. JANET ALBRECHTSEN VS GREG COMBET

From second sealed section on September 12

Mike Steketee is still steaming about being knocked off for that spot on The Australian’s opinion pages by Janet Albrechtsen and there are plenty of other people not happy with her columns.

ACTU President Greg Combet can’t have enjoyed being personally blamed for the collapse of Ansett in yesterday’s column. Er, didn’t News Corp contribute substantially by starving the business of capital for years.

And what about John “Minister for Qantas” Anderson who disgracefully lobbied the Kiwis to reject the Singapore bailout proposal. He contributed substantially to the Ansett collapse.

But Janet would not want to upset the Howard government too much as her husband John O’Sullivan is one of the Rodent’s millionaires.

O’Sullivan is a senior partner at Freehills who got the gig for both T1 and T2. This paid so much that he was able to take a 12 month sabbatical to spend his cash.

Now he’s just advised on the sell-off of Sydney Airport. But it gets worse. We just discovered this in a legal profile on the web:

“John O’Sullivan is lead partner in the team advising the government on the sale of the Sydney Airports Corporation. He also acted for Air New Zealand in its two-stage acquisition of Ansett Airlines in 1996 and 2000.”

Oh dear. Janet’s hubby advised Air New Zealand to do something which cost the Kiwis more than $1 billion. Methinks she should have disclosed this connection before her blistering attack on Greg Combet yesterday.

Peter Fray

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