In a reasonable world, Dave “Sluggo” Richardson, that recidivist serial abuser of journalistic ethics and Today Tonight foot soldier, would not get a job in any media organisation. But this is not a reasonable world. Sluggo Richardson is to Seven’s news and current affairs boss Peter Meakin what Steve Vizard is to Ron Walker – just as Ron would like to have a hundred Steves, Peter would would love to have a hundred Sluggos.

Journos like Sluggo are gold to bosses like Peter. They’re happy to operate in an ethical vacuum and fully understand the formula for low-rent current affairs – pick on little guys and leave the big guys alone unless you get a specific green light from management to go after the big guys (which is not something that happens very often). Journos who go after big guys without management’s sanction miss the point – current affairs is all about entertainment, it’s absolutely not about enlightening the audience about the goings-on of powerful elites.

Demonising little people makes damn good television and you don’t have to care a toss about defamation because the poor sods haven’t got the means to sue. Going after big ugly gorillas is what those bores at the ABC do. It not only makes for boring television, it’s also likely to cause serious grief upstairs. If you don’t understand the formula, you can p*ss off.

CRIKEY: The rather cheeky “Sluggo files” are on the Media Watch website if you need to be reminded of his appalling record. Mark Day criticised host Liz Jackson earlier this year for not having enough strong opinions. Last night’s episode was arguably her most opinionated yet and News Ltd scribblers like Andrew Bolt, Luke McIlween and Mark Steyn copped heavy lashings.

If alleged plagiarism by league legend and Sun-Herald columnist Phil Gould aired by Media Watch last night is right, and Fairfax doesn’t sack him, then editorial standards in Australia really have gone through the floor. Mark Day would have approved of Liz’s sign off: “The Sun-Herald tells us it was a subbing error. Remember when we used to believe excuses like that? Until next week, good night.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey