Inevitably and predictably, the appointment of broadcaster Maxine McKew as a special adviser on strategy to the Labor Party has pulled the chain of the right-wing critics of the ABC.

“McKew”, writes Tom Switzer in The Australian today, “will say in good faith that she never consciously went out of her way to favour the ALP and criticise the Liberals on air … but this misses the point about real bias: it comes not so much from what party the journalists attack; it comes from how they see the world. A left-wing conspiracy is not necessary at the taxpayer-funded behemoth, because (most) ABC journalists quite spontaneously think alike”.

Except that “a left-wing conspiracy” is exactly what Switzer and his cohorts insist is occurring at the ABC — a theory that is both right and wrong.

Right in the sense that the majority of journalists at the ABC (and everywhere else) “see the world” through centre-left rather than right-wing eyes because that just happens to be the natural predilection of questioning journalists in the same way as conservatism is the natural predilection of, say, money-making businessmen.

But where the ABC conspiracy theorists are wrong, insultingly so, is in their assumption that professional journalists can’t and don’t separate their own worldview from their work.

Perhaps Switzer & Co don’t understand the concept of compartmentalisation because, in the ideologically-driven media where they operate, bias is expected to be an embedded part of the journalists’ approach to their work. If it’s not, why can’t the journalists at the ABC behave just as professionally as the journalists at The Australian?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey