It has not been a good week for The Age. Fresh from a printers’ dispute
that’s cost it a fortune, the paper has now paid out a huge defamation
settlement to a little-known Northern Territory art dealer.

MICHAEL GAWENDA UNDER PRESSURE

Age readers would have been puzzled by a paragraph on page 2 of their
paper this morning outlining in very scant detail a $430,000 payment
made by The Age to a Jan Ross-Manley.

Ross-Manley hit the jackpot in what must be one of the nation’s
largest out-of-court defamation settlements not involving a
celebrity. “The article referred to Ms Ross-Manley’s management of an
art dealership in central Australia,” was all the Age would say about the offending story.

Aside from the brevity of the story, what intrigued us was how narky
it was. The paper referred to “the publication of an article more than three years ago” – as if that was in some way relevant.

Then, the paper went on to say: “The journalist who wrote the
article, Dennis Schulz, is now the speechwriter for NT Chief Minister Clare Martin.” As if that was in any way relevant.

Usually, a paper defends its journalists when they come under attack.
Just as Age editor Michael Gawenda has rightfully defended Mark Forbes
this past week from suggestions that he acted improperly by
reporting the comments of spy chief Frank Lewincamp.

But what is bizarre is going out of your way to name – and distance
yourself from – the journalist who wrote an article that didn’t even
make it to court to determine if it was defamatory.

Journalists at The Age, already concerned at the newspaper’s use of
its pages to fight the industrial dispute with its printers, have
every right to be concerned about Gawenda’s increasingly erratic editorship.

Meanwhile, News Ltd was only to happy to run a vivid account of the
story.
 
This included Ross-Manley’s claims that the story implied
“she profited in an unwarranted way from the efforts of exploited
artists, she lacked integrity, she was untrustworthy, she made a
negative contribution to the Aboriginal community, she failed to look
after the interests of artists she was charged with protecting, and
that she was incompetent as an administrator.”

Wonder why The Age didn’t run this, if it agreed she had suffered
$430,000 worth of damage?

Read the News Ltd version of events, from the NT News, here:

http://news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,8771891%255E13569,00.html

Peter Fray

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