Watching the events unfold in Tasmania yesterday, I couldn’t help
but think the media either missed or didn’t cover a potentially
dubious angle: media exploitation.

When Todd Russell and Brant Webb finally surfaced, they
began handing out cards
with the message “The
Great Escape … Looking forward to shouting you a Sustagen.” Who paid
for and printed these cards? Did Webb and Russell plan that
stunt while underground, debate the wording and discuss the graphic
design? They might have.

Or did Sustagen get the cards printed up? And quietly get some product
placement front and centre in the highest rating moment of the whole
shebang? Sustagen’s parent company Novartis assures Crikey that it
doesn’t know anything about
the cards. Moreover, “we haven’t contacted the miners or their
families”, says Communications Director Rebecca Fisher-Pollard. All in
all, it’s a pretty good outcome for a company whose involvement appears
to be unwitting.

The reason I started wondering is because it was later reported that Todd Russell, while
having a drink with his close and long-time mate Eddie McGuire,
mentioned that he wouldn’t feed Sustagen to his dog.

Which makes it a strange choice for him to decide to offer it to
everybody on
his surfacing. And even if Sustagen had produced the cards, would that
have been a bad thing?
Is it any worse than Eddie flying down to be front and centre and try
to edge into David Koch’s favouritism down there? Is it any worse than
someone yesterday registering the domains for Todd Russell and
Brant Webb as discussed on Jon Faine’s ABC Radio program this morning.

Is it any worse than John Howard promising financial support for the
family of the deceased mine worker, Larry Knight, when the relatives of
those killed in the Port Pirie explosives factory blast yesterday
probably can’t expect the same assistance? (I have nothing against
offering assistance to the Knights, by the way… But a lot of
workers die each year in industrial accidents without the Government
showing much interest in their next of kin.)

The miners are out; the media madness begins.