After trawling the Canberra Press Gallery, The Australian’s senior writer, former Fairfax editor John Lyons, was disturbed to find a group of journalists living in fear of professional intimidation and random outbursts of intemperate language from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s senior staff.  His thesis — that two 28-year-old Rudd minders are terrorising the 200-odd representatives of the national media — is alarming.  Is this herd of highly-paid hacks so lacking in self-esteem and professional confidence that it wilts before a pair of potty-mouthed government spin doctors? Surely not! That the PM’s press office has such clout and menace is an indictment of the endeavour and independence of modern Australian political journalism. What is the worst they could do? Remove any given reporter or news organisation from The Drip, the promise that if behaviour is appropriate, information will follow? This would defy most lay understandings of the journalistic process, a process that most would imagine prizes independent investigation above all else and lets the pieces fall where they may. The picture we get of the Canberra gallery, thanks to little works of revelation like Lyons’, is of a cowed pack of embedded ninnies living on an information flow detemined by the very people they should be exposing to daily scrutiny and embarassment.  For those Canberra journalists cowering in their bunkers waiting for a leak, a briefing, a friendly chat, we offer a simple counter-strategy: develop your own contacts, get your own stories and when the minders come around to threaten you, tell them to f…k off.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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