In the latest issue of his Sydney Institute Quarterly,
Gerard Henderson lays into publisher Black Inc, accusing it
of “unprofessional editorial standards,” an “unwillingness to engage
fact-checkers prior to publication” and a “refusal to even acknowledge
– let alone apologise for – errors made as a consequence of Black Inc’s
inadequate editing procedures.” Phew. For the full article, click here.

Henderson’s beef is over factual errors and misrepresentation of his views in Do Not Disturb: Is the Media Failing Australia? – edited
by Robert Manne and produced by Black Inc publisher Morry Schwartz – in
chapters written by Guy Rundle and Dennis Glover.

It’s been an
“incredibly prolonged process,” Manne told Crikey today, involving
“endless correspondence.” In the end, “we got so bored with the
exchange that we stopped,” says Schwartz. The emails flew backwards and
forwards for days, for weeks. “His letters got longer and longer and we
realised that if we kept it going it would become bigger and
bigger…and more and more boring.”

So are Henderson’s concerns
legitimate? “No,” says Schwartz. “We have the opposite point of view.
He’s rewriting history to suit himself.” In the end, the pieces he
objects to are opinion pieces but “we do check facts,” and have a high
ratio of editors to books and high editorial standards.

It was
mostly nit-picking, says Manne, but he concedes Henderson did bring up
one serious claim raised in Rundle’s piece: that the National Civic
Council in particular, and indeed anti-communists more generally,
turned a blind eye to the atrocities of right-wing regimes. I offered
to debate Henderson on the issue, says Manne, but he “absolutely
refused to take part.”

In
an email to Crikey, Glover concedes that Henderson pointed out a minor
factual error in his article – getting the name of a journalist wrong
– but says his overall criticisms don’t stand up. Glover continues:

More interestingly, he fails to tackle the central claim of
my essay – that contrary to the claims of the Right, the Australian
media is biased not towards Labor but against it. This is highlighted
by the fact that at the last election only one of our 15 major
metropolitan newspapers (the Canberra Times) recommended a vote
for Labor. Not a single one of the Fairfax papers endorsed the ALP – so
much for the supposed pro-Labor Fairfax bias…

But Gerard’s
claims are instructive – not for their content but for their style. He
illustrates what the Right does well and the Left does not –
prosecuting a case with relentless determination and intellectual
belief, hunting down every loose ball the way the great Essendon teams
of the last decade did. It’s part of the way the Right stole America
and the way they’re doing it here. The Australian Left could learn a
lot from him. With half a dozen Gerard Hendersons on their side the
Australian Left could go a long way towards taking Australia back.

Peter Fray

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