Here’s a terrible truth about the Press Gallery. The vast majority of its members are level headed, conscientious types – good men and women doing a good job.

It’s hard to ascribe bias to them. Expressing scepticism about finely spun government lines that are still full of knots and tangles doesn’t make one a leftie. Populism in reports for a popular audience doesn’t necessarily make one a right winger, either. Both suggest a knowledge of who one is reporting for.

Titans like Michelle Grattan set the standard. If anyone falls off the scales – the rails – they immediately stand out.

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And we need to remember bias isn’t bad. Bias can liven things up. Bias can provide original takes on the issues of the day – issues that are all too often repeats or variations of issues that have come and gone and come and gone before and need some new interpretation.

It’s only bad when it becomes dull – when it becomes predictable.

If the Gallery is guilty of one thing, it’s groupthink.

Gallery members are afraid of standing out because that makes them easier to pick off.

Individual, idiosyncratic takes on politics and government are valuable; particularly when they are pitched at an audience that can weight the evidence and make up their own minds.


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THE AGE

Michelle Grattan

The consummate pro, whose last recorded gesture of political inclination was a raised left eyebrow sometime in the autumn of 1962. Her trademark impartiality perhaps explains a lack of scoops in an age when opinion makes news and being on the drip gets you on page one. It may be an old-fashioned approach in an age of look-at-me journalism, but she still sets the standard by which others are judged.

Mischa Schubert

Offers straightforward accounts of the day’s news, but light on in the scoops department.

Tony Wright


Rock solid well-informed reporter with a nice writerly touch – but has his arrival at The Age made Spencer Street’s ship top-heavy?

Jason Koutsoukis

Choose your song and sing along: “They call me the great pretender” OR “Young guns having some fun…” Way more interested in promoting himself than any silly politician.

THE AUSTRALIAN

Glenn Milne

Maintained a veneer of neutrality during the Hawke-Keating years, but now arguably the most labelled columnist of them all, spouting Costello-isms as much as Akerman spouts the PM and Tony Abbott. The only Liberal spruiker who regularly sledges the PM at the urging of his Costello string pullers. This gun’s for hire, even if we’re just dancing in the dark…

Matt Price

Do something about the hair, Matt. The only writer regularly offering decent observational colour in the federal parliament, which, let’s face it, must be a creative stretch most days. A soft leftie at heart who pragmatically bats for Rupert’s agenda as required, but generally favours prefers gags to hatchet jobs. I’m not a journalist. I’m an entertainer.

Dennis Shanahan

His unique and idiosyncratic insights into opinion polling have won The Australian’s political editor a reputation as Tony O’Leary’s right hand man. One-party preferred.

The SMH

Phillip Coorey

Over excitable in his younger days, now overwhelmed by the general weariness and sapping ennui that besets most Fairfax hacks in the post Hilmer era. Fairfax inertia – along with the chips the place gives to both shoulders – keeps him on an even keel.

Phillip Hudson

One of the gray men of the gallery. Not an eminence grise. Just a gray man. Impeccable treasury connections.

Annabel Crabb

The Forces’ Sweetheart, for all those poor sods caught up in the trench warfare of day-to-day politics. Wrote the book on Latham just before Latham wrote himself off.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

Malcolm Farr

Solid Labor man of the Keating era whose opinions have edged pragmatically in late middle age, a phenomenon that has suited both the government and his proprietor. A likeable and knowledgeable political observer, nevertheless, whose commonsense approach makes many of his gallery colleagues look like wannabes.

THE FINANCIAL REVIEW

Laura Tingle

How does she live with him? But moving on … another long and distinguished tenure. The mystery is that the AFR, notionally the publication of choice for the striped shirt baker set, should opt to take its political commentary from so gently left a hand. Perhaps because the insights are pretty accurate.

Geoffrey Barker

See above. Rather as The Age’s Michael Gordon has drifted into indigenous affairs, so has Barker slipped gracefully into a boys toy fascination with defence and materiel. Ample material in recent administrations of that department for a nuanced anti-government line.

Lenore Taylor

Solid reporter who’s in danger of looking like part of the furniture in the Fin bureau as the scoops dry up and its focus firms on only business related matters.

HERALD SUN

Michael Harvey/Gerard McManus

They’d be absolutely top quality if they weren’t so keen to be populist. A solid pair of journalists who break stories, are attuned to their audience – and swallow down the government’s drops, hook, line and sinker. The company line pushes them slightly off centre.

THE CANBERRA TIMES

Andrew Fraser

Sound Canberra coverage pitched at the cardie clad cadres who makes up the Times audience. Sometimes it’s a pity the paper’s readership doesn’t extend past the Tuggeranong Valley.

 

THE BULLETIN

Paul Daley

A good journo let down by a lack of an audience – and his publication’s propensity to beat stories up out of all proportion in a bid to grab some attention.

CHANNEL NINE

Laurie Oakes

Another of the game’s great pros, a reporter first, who still places ultimate value on an old fashioned scoop. And even better, he gets them. The Master. His wisdom even exceeds his waistline. Imperiously above the fray, his weekly Bulletin column is the place to go for the analysis the others can’t reach.

CHANNEL TEN

Paul Bongiorno

Great journo, great bloke – but comes across like a chef from Vue de Monde who’s suddenly had to start looking after the grill at a Hungry Jacks. Knows so much more than his network will ever use.

CHANNEL SEVEN

Mark Riley

The Gallery’s highest paid journo, according to some bitter and twisted souls one bumps into in the corridors. Superior sources and a superior sense for a story – and an eye for a good populist campaign guaranteed to get under ministerial skins make him one of the best reporters in the Gallery. The natural heir to Laurie Oakes when the Sphere succumbs to a surfeit.

ABC

Michael Brissenden

Politics can often be a laughing matter, but it isn’t comedy. Brissenden’s guaranteed glib reports are always too clever by half and help make The 7:30 Report’s Canberra coverage entirely predictable – a superficial look at the day’s events courtesy of Brisso before Kerry goes mano a mano (again) with whoever’s in the spotlight and prepared to stick their head up.

Jim Middleton

A sarky so-and-so who leaves viewers with the impression that he’s just going through the motions. And the hair product.

SBS

Karen Middleton

It’s rather hard to come across as credible when your reports turn up as part of what appears to be public broadcasting’s Hezbollah News Hour.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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