Journalists often wonder why they rate so poorly in public trust surveys, but they should not be surprised when people like Today Tonight reporter Dave “Sluggo” Richardson are still on air.

Sluggo was done over by Liz Jackson on Media Watch
this week for harassing a single mother who had five children by four
men. The woman was stalked and ambushed, her child’s face was revealed
and then the program paraded a range of benefits that she could claim
but doesn’t.

“Mary-Anne” was patronisingly called “darling” by
Sluggo but far from being some sort of promiscuous dole bludger, she
actually works as a waitress while also looking after five children.

In
my ten years working in family law, single mothers with children to
different fathers were a dime a dozen. I can specifically recall two
mums with five kids to four dads. Neither of them did it for the
pension money. Both of them were constantly looking for a man to save
them and give them support, companionship and security. Both of them
were poor judges of character.

More often than not, the guy
would make himself at home in the mother’s house, sleep with her,
endear himself to her kids and then do a runner when it all got too
hard. Or, worse still, the guy was a brute and the mother and kids
would have to do a runner. Both these women had flawed characters. Poor
self esteem was at the core of their problems, but the guys were no
better and often worse. Had “Sluggo” shone his devious spotlight on the
four dads in this story, I’m confident the mother would be receiving
donations not condemnation.

It might be time for my shareholder
activist husband to give Sluggo another airing at the forthcoming Seven
AGM. In October 1998, Stephen got up at the Seven AGM and had a dip at
executive chairman Kerry Stokes for only suspending “Sluggo” for huge
ethical breaches but then sacking the well regarded Melbourne Today Tonight
team of Jill Singer, Greg Hoy, Mark Forbes, Jeremy Thompson and Marco
Bass, who just happened to have upset Jeff Kennett with some real
journalism. This is what appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 24 October 1998:

Stokes also openly dealt with the apparent contradiction in axing several highly regarded Seven journalists, most notably Witness reporter Graham Davis, whilst not sacking David Richardson, the Today Tonight
reporter caught blatantly fabricating footage on the Skase chase. He
said the Davis battle boiled down to a dispute with his executive
producer and last week’s settlement was “well less than half” reported
figures of $1 million.

He agreed Richardson’s action was
“something we were not proud of” but deemed suspension was “the
appropriate disciplinary action” and mistakes “should not impinge on a
person’s career forever.”

Go to this link
and you’ll also see that in 2003 “Sluggo” was caught pretending to be
in Iraq when he wasn’t. As you can see, the cowboy has been giving
tabloid television a bad name for almost a decade now. It’s time to
sack Sluggo, Kerry!

Peter Fray

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