What would happen if we compared the coverage of the death and funeral of Michael Jackson with the reportage of the situation in Afghanistan by Australian TV networks? I wonder, could there be a disparity in the amount of attention these two stories are receiving? Might it be possible that the least important story is attracting the greatest coverage?
Let’s find out …
First it was a call to Nine, where an insider explained it has “a cast of thousands” covering the Jackson story. The lineup includes Robert Penfold and his “young sidekick” Peter Stefanovic. By “happy co-incidence” another Nine Reporter, Tom Steinfort is there and will be helping out, as will Leila McKinnon with material for the Today Show and News. For some hard hitting reportage, Peter’s brother, Karl Stefanovic, has flown in to assist, along with Richard Wilkins, despite becoming the subject of international mockery after prematurely announcing the death of Jeff Goldblum on the same day as Jackson’s death. The celebrity gossip, Richard Reid, is also adding his invaluable insights into this important unfolding international crisis.
When asked who Nine has in Afghanistan at the moment, there was a silent pause and eventually the response; “Nine has no one in Afghanistan.” After explaining that it was difficult to get in there and that reporters needed to be embedded to get access, the insider did recall that a young reporter from Darwin might have made it in to Afghanistan about two years ago. “But I’ll need to check that,” he said.
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Over at Seven I was told that correspondent Mike Amor and reporter Rahni Sadler are anchoring Seven’s Michael Jackson coverage. But Samantha Armytage from Weekend Sunrise will be jetting over for this week’s show. Clare Brady of Today Tonight is in LA on holiday and is covering the story as well. As for Afghanistan, Seven says it is obviously more difficult to get reporters there but points out that Nick McCallum has made one trip and Chris Reason two trips in the last year.
Ten’s head of News and Public Affairs, Jim Carroll, told Crikey that with Ten’s limited resources it didn’t want to put too many people onto the Michael Jackson story. “We’ll be committing what we consider to be the appropriate resources,” he said.
Like the ABC, it will be taking advantage of the changeover of correspondents to boost its coverage, with the new reporter, Emma Dallimore from the Brisbane newsroom arriving this weekend to take over from the existing correspondent, Nicole Strahan, who finishes in LA in mid July. Carroll told Crikey it could also draw on Matt Doran if needed because he’s on holiday in the area, although that’s unlikely according to Carroll because “we don’t want to go overboard” on it.
As for Afghanistan, Ten is at a loss to nominate anyone who has visited in the last few years, although Carroll does recall a couple of forays into Iraq by Ten reporters, including London correspondent, Danielle Isdale in 2007 and Tim Collits in 2008. Both were on organised ministerial or military trips and he hopes that the same may be possible in Afghanistan in the next couple of months.
The ABC has correspondent Kim Landers on the ground in LA. She will be joined by Lisa Miller, who is enroute to Washington to take up her second stint as US correspondent.
Of all of the networks the ABC has the greatest commitment to covering Afghanistan with its own people. The region is covered by the South Asia correspondent – currently Sally Sara – as well as by reporters for programs such as Foreign Correspondent and The 7.30 Report. Correspondent Thom Cookes was recently given access to a joint Australian Afghan patrol on a counter-insurgency mission in the southern Uruzgan province and Matt Brown filed from Kandahar as recently as May this year.
I guess we’ll know that the story in LA has finally died down when Nine feels that it can send Richard Wilkins and Karl Stefanovic home. It’s just an idea, but perhaps the network could send them to Afghanistan on the way so they can have a go at some real reporting?