From time to time the Seven Network and its current affairs program, Today Tonight, have made much of their saintly refusal to pay for stories and interviews. Seven News and Current Affairs boss Peter Meakin has boasted of saving the network “a million dollars” in one year with this stance.

Last year, they did bid hard for the Beaconsfield miners’ story but have otherwise continued to maintain the “we don’t pay” approach. But after shelling out between $50,000 and $100,000 for the Jodi Power story, it’s about time Seven and Today Tonight abandoned the high moral ground in the chequebook journalism debate.

It’s one of those positions where you can’t be a little pregnant: either you pay for stories or you don’t. Even if you only do it occasionally, that’s no defence.

Seven would argue that it was justified: lots of publicity, lots of ratings and raising the profile of new TT host, Anna Coren – and it has. Seven gazumped Nine, which says it didn’t bid for the Jodi Power interview because it didn’t know about it: a telling admission in itself.

Nine has paid the Corbys for exclusive interviews in the past and A Current Affair was close “financially” to the Corbys in Bali during the various trials and a 60 Minutes producer, Kathy Bonella, wrote the Schapelle Corby book, My Story (though the copyright resides with sister Mercedes).

So it’s hardly convincing when Nine and its executives, Gary Linnell and his offsider, David Hurley (who was running ACA during the Bali trials and made sure the program stayed close to the family) try to sounded outraged at what Today Tonight has done. They have done it in the past and will do it again. No one has any credibility when you get into the swamp of chequebook journalism.

Last night’s efforts from TT and ACA were parodies of each other: body language experts, predictably the one on TT saying Jodi Power was right and the one on ACA saying she was making it up.

Meanwhile, the Australian‘s Amanda Meade gets stuck into TT host Anna Coren in in this piece in today’s Media section:

As Naomi Robson slips on her high heels for her Dancing with the Stars debut next week, she may also be wearing a wry smile when she thinks about the recent lurid travails of her successor at Today Tonight, Anna Coren. If Coren thought she could hang on to her journalistic credibility and host Seven’s Today Tonight, she was seriously misled…

Coren is already paying the price for her place in the lucrative tabloid spotlight. In just a few weeks the 31-year-old blonde reporter … has well and truly earned Robson’s ignominious crown of tabloid queen.

But here’s where Meade gets grubby:

Coren’s romantic attachments have been the subject of newspaper stories during the past week, complicated by the fact that her latest beau is Andrew Bourke, the Today Tonight reporter responsible for securing the Power story…

Apart from his obvious talent for building a rapport with people such as Power, Bourke is reportedly a “former model”, a handy skill for reporters seeking a job in television. None of this romantic side story would interest us, of course, if it wasn’t for the way it has been played in the media. After hearing the Sunday papers were sniffing around her love life, Coren agreed to pose with Bourke for a News Limited photographer. The Sunday Telegraph then ran the photo and described her as answering questions about her love life “through gritted teeth”.

Well Amanda, it wouldn’t have been a story if it hadn’t been for the gossip page in your stablemate, The Daily Telegraph. It brought Coren’s private life into the public eye; she didn’t. It’s a pretty thin justification for an attempted hatchet job.

But then by invoking Naomi Robson, as she did at the start of her story, Meade is dipping deep into the well of hypocrisy herself. Wasn’t it she who spent most of 2006 writing bitchy stories about Robson, including a stiletto job in the Media section?

And describing Coren as “the 31-year-old blonde reporter “? Coren is blonde and 31, but the point is irrelevant. Would Meade like to be referred to as the “mousey-haired thirtysomething”? No, “blonde” was used in relation to Coren to touch the vibe that blondes can’t be smart.

Amanda Meade should hang her head. She knows better.

 


David Hurley, Executive Producer, Nine Network News & Current Affairs, writes: Re. Glenn Dyer. I don’t make contact these days because your tortured and celebrated bias renders exchanges with you a pointless pursuit. Nor do I always read your stuff. Don’t need to – I see the Seven press releases and Francis emails from other sources. But this one demands your attention, and correction. You’ve either unwittingly or deliberately misrepresented Garry Linnell and me in last Thursday’s analysis, and Nine in Tuesday’s ramblings. That’s not new, but these are bad mistakes and common decency demands you set it right. So see if you can extract your head from the Seven sphincter long enough to re-read what YOU wrote… first on Tuesday and then on Thursday. And then remedy. You wrote “And we didn’t get to hear about the battle to get Jodi Power’s interview. TT mentioned several times it was a paid interview, but what we weren’t told was that the Nine’s 60 Minutes had attempted to buy off Power late last week offering around $200,000 for an exclusive interview to run on its season opener on Sunday night”. Wrong in every detail. The big lie by Seven – its stock standard trick of making a claim that can neither be proved nor disproved, and hoping someone might fall for it. YOU did… there’s a surprise… and as usual just rushed straight to print and represented it as fact. Just despicable. No other journalist did that… funny that. And the few who ran it had the decency to represent it for what is was, a “claim” by Seven. Apart from the fact we’ve categorically denied it… the lie doesn’t survive even the most basic test of logic. As for 60 Minutes allegedly bidding ridiculous amounts of money last week for an interview already conducted by TT in late November, I don’t think so, Glenn. The barest journalistic check might have persuaded even you of that – but best not to call or ask, for fear of an answer that doesn’t suit. It’s much cleaner that way, Glenn. And you call yourself a journalist, and dare preach to others. You should be deeply ashamed. So, then we get this sh-te below, two days later. Here you dishonestly assert that Linnell and I are “outraged” about “what TT has done” – referring to the story itself and the chequebook journalism involved, and give us one of your turgid lectures: “So it’s hardly convincing when Nine and its executives, Gary Linnell and his offsider, David Hurley (who was running ACA during the Bali trials and made sure the program stayed close to the family) try to sounded outraged at what Today Tonight has done. They have done it in the past and will do it again. No one has any credibility when you get into the swamp of chequebook journalism.” Again, demonstrably untrue. Our concern was levelled at one thing only – this false claim by Seven of the bogus Nine “offer” to Power. So you – deliberately I suspect – confuse the subject of our clear public statements, namely, those wholly false Seven claims (as in: “yes we did but that’s OK because Nine offered more”) , and wrongly relate them to chequebook journalism and other issues. Fair dinkum Glenn… even by your impossibly low standards, this is wretched stuff. If you have any decency left in you… despite your lifelong get-square mission versus Nine following your departure all those years ago – you’ll set this right. I don’t think you have either the guts or the decency to do so. Prove me wrong.

Peter Fray

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