Daily Telegraph associate editor Roger Coombs, Australian Press
Council
executive officer Jack Herman and yours truly had a productive
75-minute mediation session in Sydney yesterday. We were dealing with
the question of whether
Rupert’s flagship tabloid would run my polite 96-word letter responding
to
Piers Akerman’s column on 1 December last year which included the
following line:

It can be argued that almost anyone can call themselves a
journalist these days, as evidenced by the nonsense published by people
claiming to be journalists on websites such as Eric Beecher’s and
Stephen Mayne’s Crikey.

I can’t breach confidences about what was discussed but a mediated settlement is a prospect,
although if this falls through we’ll be going to a full hearing before
a 7-member panel in Sydney on 16 June.

The contrast between my understated factual letter and some of the rather
intemperate language of News Corp correspondents in Crikey over the
years is stark indeed. Try these for size, which we’ve happily published:

“Where on earth do you come up with this garbage? You’ve taken paranoia and unprofessional journalism to new levels.”
Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden

“You should be ashamed to run such drivel. Leave it to Indymedia and grow up.”
– Andrew Bolt

“You are a complete f*ck…You dumb f*ck.”
– Terry McCrann

“Your joke website is wrong again. Your lack of credibility is matched only by the
incoherence of the ungrammatical garbage carried on your site. Once regarded as
a potentially serious journalist, you have become a clown in the eyes of your
former colleagues.”
– Piers Akerman

“Crikey, it is acknowledged, is to accuracy and ethical
practice what the Big Mac is to cuisine and rainforests. Any less patently
absurd periodical would have checked the facts.”
– News Ltd motoring writer Paul Pottinger

Does anyone else think that all this aggression is a touch overblown?
Surely we journalists should engage in civilised debate, respecting the
rights of others to hold alternative views. I’d more than happily drop
by for a coffee or beer with any of the above chaps, but for some
reason we seem to have generated all this fury and anger.

Today we’ve even seen a new incarnation of the Herald Sun ban on
me and Crikey. Andrew Bolt’s attack this morning on his own paper’s trashy Rex Hunt
splash described our ezine as “the gossip site of Sydney Morning Herald ex-editor Eric Beecher”.

Truth be known, the current Press Council action is just a dry run for a forthcoming complaint over the Herald Sun’s ban, and Bolt’s column today will be exhibit 96. The Greens cleaned up the Herald Sun
in the Press Council after the last federal election and I’m very
confident of a similar result if they don’t lift the ban during this
year’s Victorian election campaign.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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