So what if a respected Press Gallery journalist like Mark Riley trawled through Helen Coonan’s holiday garbage to uncover some embarrassing government scoop? Vice-President of Canberra’s Press Gallery and Channel Ten’s chief political reporter Paul Bongiorno told Crikey that, as a political journalist, there’s no disgrace in getting your hands dirty for a good story – especially when it shines the spotlight on a dishonest government.

“Among the detritus is often elements of the truth,” Bongiorno told Crikey, who said that while gallery journalists need to keep in mind their code of ethics, some stories would never have been broken if a gallery journo hadn’t rolled up their Hugo Boss sleeves and got a little dirty. “What about rummaging around for the truth?”

As part of his diaries, Latham accused Riley – “as part of his so-called research” – of going through Coonan’s garbage, then “handing over soiled documents” for him to use in Question Time. “Ethically I suppose I am just as bad as him,” concludes Latham.

“Frankly I view the Latham attack on Riley as hypocrisy,” said Bongiorno, who criticised a bitter and angry Latham for his wide ranging attacks against almost everyone that he came in contact with. “I just think that Latham, as his last wife has said, has lost his moral compass.”

According to Crikey reader Brian Mitchell, the problem with the “high-falutin’ journos” of today is that they’re “too clean, too lily-white and not willing to get their hands dirty unless it’s from too much toner on the press release out of the fax.” We like it, but that’s not always the case.

One former political hack told Crikey that he knew one reporter who, before going into a minister’s office, would take time to rummage through their recycle bin to see what they could turn up. It’s a tactic that’s been effectively used for decades, and one Latham smear, true or not, isn’t going to discourage a gallery that Latham, at one stage in his diaries, lashes for being weak, and unable to land a blow on Kim Beazley. Maybe they just needed to do more digging.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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