As a former Queensland Ministerial spinner, I had to comment on Courier-Mail journo Steven Wardill’s leaked email that was in Crikey yesterday.

Why are Ministers dodging talking to the Brisbane Courier-Mail and putting answers in writing? Because the Courier‘s journos regularly get basic, publicly available, facts wrong, such as figures from Budget papers or staff numbers quoted in audit or reporting documents.

At least when you’ve given it to them in writing you’ve got something you can point to for a right of reply — although by then the damage is usually done — the morning radios are already running whatever the Courier‘s printed, and your “right of reply” is only going to give them another chance to give a kick.

They’re also nigh-on impossible to talk to once they’ve got some bullsh-t in their head from the Opposition.

This might shock some readers, but yes — Minister’s and their staff do try to impart a certain interpretation to events and issues!

Guess what? The Opposition and their staff do as well!

Unfortunately the Courier doesn’t agree — when we talk to them we’re spinning and need to be regarded with a big dose of scepticism … the Opposition however has simply laid out “the facts” in an impartial manner for the sole purpose of making the life of a journo more simple.

Deadset — why would you put your Minister up when you know they’re going to have to spend at least half the interview trying to get some balance into the premise the article is based on? That’s before you can even start on the interview itself.

Just because the Opposition is hopeless, the Courier-Mail has decided they need to step up and challenge the Government — take the leaked email for starters — sanctimonius much? Jeez — just stick to writing stories. If there’s a problem, the president of the Press Gallery should be raising it with the head of the Government Media Unit.

And threatening to pass around Ministers’ home numbers? Classy. Why not publish Madonna King and David Fagan’s home number so we can just phone in our letters to the editor?

Staffers are better off sticking with a written statement to the Courier — even “unavailable” is usually better than whatever half-a-sed quote you’d get in anyway.

Chow down on the sh-t sandwich story for brekkie, and use that written statement to brief the Minister for the inevitable call from Madonna King — at least that way Joe Punter’s going to hear some of what you’re saying.

No-one reads the Courier anyway — get the Minister to talk to the Sunday Mail and the regional dailies in the meantime. Time much better spent.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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