Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden writes:

Garry Linnell has declared Australian journalism “very unwell”,
simply because a few journalists questioned aspects of his magazine’s
12-page cover story on Martin Bryant this week. He surprises me.

For an editor I respect (and said so in my radio interview with Neil
Mitchell), Garry makes a bizarre argument by comparing Port Arthur with
the Herald Sun‘s coverage of Joe Korp and Melbourne’s gangland wars. I fail to see any connection.

My comments centred on The Bulletin making the mass murderer, a
despised figure who shattered hundreds of lives, the focus of their
coverage.

I questioned the cover and the deep, two page strapline which read: “It
was, truly exciting…the most exciting thing I’d ever done in my life’
— Martin Bryant”.

Garry says in his letter to you that “anyone in journalism who does not
take into account the sensitivities of trauma victims should not be in
the caper”.

Sure, that strapline is bursting with sensitivity. Ask family members
of victims about that. To me, this outweighs the need to regurgitate
aspects of the massacre which, after all, happened ten years ago. I also
questioned absurd quotes from Bryant’s mother, such as: “My poor
Martin. He couldn’t have shot all those people at Port Arthur. He
didn’t have the brains to do it.”

At no stage did I suggest the story would make Bryant a celebrated
figure. But as a current board member of the Alannah and Madeline
Foundation, established in memory of Bryant’s youngest victims, and
editor of the Herald Sun at the time, I’m aware of how this tragedy
still cuts deeply in the community. We filled many pages on the
shootings in 1996. Filling page after page on the perpetrator in 2006
is not what I believe most Australians would desire.

Maybe I’m out of touch, perhaps I’m soft, but I really don’t think my
comments show journalism is “very unwell”. By all means mention
Bryant’s name, but a four-month (!) journalistic odyssey centred almost
entirely on this creep, and featuring him on the cover of a national
magazine, was always going to disturb people still hurting so badly.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW