Strange bedfellows were created when Fairfax Media took over Southern Cross Broadcasting. Suddenly, Melbourne morning radio star Neil Mitchell had gone from being a 3AW host and News Limited’s Herald Sun columnist to 3AW host, Fairfax employee and News Limited’s Herald Sun columnist. A strangely conflicted working arrangement? Not so, Mr Mitchell told Crikey’s Margaret Simons. Then along came journalism student Cathy Green. How could you write for the Herald Sun and brodcast on 3AW, she asked? Cross promotion, said the Fairfax employee. Go figure.

From: Cathy Green
Sent: Tuesday, 6 May 2008 5:46 PM
To: Neil Mitchell
Subject: Steve Vizard interview.

Hi Neil

I am a First year journalism student and was wondering why you interviewed Steve Vizard on your radio program this morning given that you had already interviewed him for your article in today’s Herald-Sun.

Was the first interview for the paper incomplete? The article in the newspaper ended with a promotion for your upcoming interview with Steve Vizard at 8.30 on 3AW. The whole thing does appear to be a bit choreographed. Anyway, congratulations on getting a front page story.

I’m envious.

regards
Cathy Green

Subject: RE: Steve Vizard interview.
Date: Wed, 7 May 2008 05:27:38 +1000
From: neil mitchell
To: Cathy Green

Cathy,
It was choreographed: by me. It is not unusual for me to do such things. The Herald Sun interview was nowhere near as extensive as the radio. The idea is simple cross promotion.

Neil Mitchell
3AW Presenter
Fairfax Media

From: Cathy Green
Sent: Friday, 9 May 2008 11:58 AM
To: Neil Mitchell
Subject: RE: Steve Vizard interview
.

Hi Neil
Thank you so much for your reply. I apologize for having a couple more questions but I’m trying to understand not only what makes up the content of news stories but also the mechanisms by which they get published. With regard to your Steve Vizard story in the Herald-Sun, I read in Wednesday’s Age that Steve Vizard had initiated the 3AW interview with you. Does that mean that the content of your  newspaper article was, by design, restricted in order to get readers to listen to the radio interview? Forgive me if my logic is wrong here, I am trying to interpret how the cross promotion is choreographed.

The other question I had was; why can Steve Vizard still manage to get away with avoiding answering the same questions he managed to dodge both in and outside of court at the time of his trial? He did publicly promise at the time of his trial that he was determined for the whole story to be told and yet that story remains untold. Apart from Steve Vizard handing back his Order of Australia, the only new information in the latest stories appears to be that Steve Vizard has shed some tears over what, he has always maintained, was little more than an administrative oversight.

I hope I’m not asking too many questions here. Legal journalism is the area I’m hoping to get into and I guess probing is part of that process. I particularly admire the work of John Silvester. Also Andrew Rule, who used to write for The Age was often, I thought, incredibly fearless.

Anyway. Thanks for your time Neil.

Yours Sincerely,
Cathy

From: Neil Mitchell
To: Cathy Green
Subject: RE: Steve Vizard interview.
Date: Fri, 9 May 2008 12:13:03 +1000

Cathy,

All I can do is ask the question. If Vizard chooses not to answer them that is his right. I do not agree the only information that came out was the tears. 

The Herald Sun story was a news story, which means it will not carry a great deal of analysis or quotes. The radio interview ran for about 20 minutes. That allows for many many more questions than you will ever get in a newspaper story.

Neil Mitchell
3AW Presenter
Fairfax Media

From: Cathy Green 
To: Neil Mitchell
Subject: RE: Steve Vizard interview.
Date: Wed, 14 May 2008 00:12:16 +0000

Hi Neil

Thanks for your time. I mentioned our discussion about the Steve Vizard story to my parents on Mother’s Day and told them how frustrating I found it that no-one even batted an eyelid when Steve Vizard simply chose not to answer questions. My parents asked me a couple of interesting questions which I’ll relay to you since they’re obviously not questions I’m able to answer.

My father, who’s an an entertainment lawyer, says that you would be getting paid about $50,00 a year for your column at the Herald Sun and that Fairfax would be paying you something in the vicinity of $1,000,000 a year for your 3AW program. Obviously I can’t vouch for the specific figures and nor would I suggest for a moment that you have any obligation to publicly declare your income, but Dad deals with these types of contracts all the time so I’m trusting his estimates. He was only stressing the difference between the two incomes rather than the exact amounts. Anyway the crux of the question he asks is: How could you deliver a front page exclusive to the main rival to Fairfax when Fairfax are paying you so much more then News Limited are? This isn’t a question about how much you earn but rather about where your primary loyalty should lie when you are employed by two rival media organisations.

Also, at my mother’s insistence, and bearing in mind that she’s been listening to the radio for many more years than I have, I’ll ask you her question. Why do 3AW never let women host any of their major programs? Breakfast, Morning, Afternoon, Drive, Sport, Evening and Overnight are all hosted by men. Even when the regular hosts go on holidays or call in sick, the fill-in hosts are always, without exception, men. Mum finds it offensive and says that it’s misogynistic and certainly, on the evidence she presents, it’s difficult to deny that she has a point. When was the last time your morning slot was hosted by a woman either full-time or fill-in? When was the last time you allowed a woman to fill in for you? Mum says that there was an article in the Green Guide last year where 3AW management claimed that there were no women in prime slots because listeners turned off if female hosts argued with them. That’s insane. We’re in the 21st century.

I know that I’m being very direct with my questions here, perhaps a reflection of the Arts Law degree I finished a couple of years ago, but when I listened to Virginia Trioli’s Walkley award-winning interview with Peter Reith at Uni a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but be struck by how brilliantly she, without getting aggressive, was able to insist on answers to her questions. She got those answers. There’s no way she would have won her Walkley award if she’d simply moved on to a new question every time Peter Reith chose not to fully answer her questions.

I look forward to your reply. My mother says that I’ll be ignored because my directness will be dismissed as something pre-menstrual.

best wishes,
Cathy Green

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