As a response to conflict of interest allegations, David Fagan’s “but my
wife gives good interview” may not be the best of them (Crikey yesterday, item
25). It illustrates the problem rather than explain it away. “My wife” should
not be in the position of having to do ABC interviews with her husband, her
editor and the editor of the only newspaper in town.

For the record, my criticisms were not directed at
Fagan, nor his wife Madonna King, and I did not fault the interview itself. My
criticisms were directed at the ABC. In fairness to Fagan, Crikey’s edit of my
piece was not their best effort, but the original was published in full here yesterday.

Fagan then refers to a Crikey article I wrote (February 24) about
different versions of journalism’s ethics he and King had given to Scott Rush’s
lawyer, and says I had “somehow tried to paint this as an illustration of the
conflicts we face”. Not a bit of it, as even a quick read of the article, also
available at the link above, will show. I used the story simply to illustrate
that there is only one “ethic” that matters to journos – get the
story.

Fagan closed with gratuitous and defamatory remarks that my “world is
populated with conspiracy theories” which he treats with caution and says Crikey
“readers should do the same”. I have put up both my articles, and Fagan’s
response to them, for public scrutiny at the link above. Now its David Fagan’s turn to put up
or shut up. Cite one example David, just one, to substantiate that comment. If
you can’t, your silence can surely be taken by me and Crikey readers as a total
retraction, complete with suitably groveling apology – although the real thing
would be the more honourable course.

CRIKEY: We should also take this
opportunity to clear up an error in the transcript of Madonna King’s
program published via a link in yesterday’s Crikey. In the three
sections of the transcript below all the answers attributed to Fagan
were actually given by SMH editor Alan Oakley.

KING: Does
it open an opportunity for Fairfax?

FAGAN: I think … well it’s not just
Fairfax I think what’s the most interesting thing that’s going to happen this
year, one hopes is the new cross-media and foreign media ownership legislation
which will eventually go through Parliament, one hopes. Now, Southeast
Queensland particularly, which is one of the most fastest growing markets in the
country, a lot of people will be looking very closely at Southeast Queensland.
I would be surprised if Southeast Queensland as
a monopoly as it is now, either from a domestic publisher or indeed from
publishers overseas.
KING: Who would be a likely
candidate do you think?
FAGAN: From overseas?
KING: Or domestically …

FAGAN: Oh well I think all the
current publishers. I mean the other issue of course is that with the
relaxation of cross media, it allows alliances and mergers to be formed; so the
landscape will change and it may be that a very different type of publishing
operation could be started in Perth or Brisbane.

KING:
Like what?
FAGAN:
Well, I don’t know exactly but it is certainly a market that a lot of people
have looked at rather jealously for some
time.

Peter Fray

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