"The facts is [sic], if the pipeline slows and stops, all the growth that the NSW government is banking on to support its finances into the future, evaporates. Any project where an extension is under consideration, stops. And major investments, stop too until certainty of land access is restored."BHP's failure to disclose its plans should have been immaterial, Stevens wrote. But critics say Stevens' also has a disclosure issue, given his relationship with Evans, whom he married last Spring. Evans was hard at work for BHP during the week Stevens penned his piece. Business Spectator's Llewellyn-Smith said Stevens' outrage also appeared confected, considering he hadn't written about the decision until six days later. But Stevens' affinity for BHP is nothing new. Last December, he labelled the firm's go-it-alone bid to buy the Queensland government's public rail assets "intriguing." Then there was this opinion piece from last June revelling in BHP's $US116 billion iron ore "triumph" with Rio Tinto. Or this bullish take on BHP's disastrous takeover bid for Rio Tinto, based on the "redoubtable assessment" of BHP Chairman Don Argus. Or this feature from late 2008, slamming a Commonwealth Bank staffer for failing to roll over loans to then-BHP takeover target Oz Minerals. Or this assessment of Argus's "thoroughly stimulating" Melbourne Mining Club plan to save Australia through bond raisings. It's certainly possible that each of these instances could be defended in the name of sincerely-held opinion and that many media couples have juggled such conflicts in the past. But according to journalism ethics expert Professor Ian Richards from the University of South Australia, "conflicts of interests are inevitable between journalists who have a range of personal and professional obligations and loyalties." In general, "a conflict of interest arises when an obligation or loyalty would impair the journalist's judgement to the detriment of their wider obligation to the public." In the specific case of Stevens and Evans, Richards says it is "entirely reasonable" that he should "disclose the connection or refrain from writing about the issue". Otherwise, there was a "risk of undermining his credibility". Crikey asked Stevens whether he should disclose his BHP connection when penning future columns on the company but he declined to comment, saying he had a pending teleconference. Sam Evans is now on 12-months maternity leave. In the spirit of disclosure, Crikey is updating our list of journalists whose partners are other journalists or employed in the news business as PR agents or government spinners. We will publish an updated list when we're confident it's accurate but here are a few new names we haven't included previously to kick things off: -- Matthew Stevens, The Australian business section and Sam Evans, BHP senior media relations adviser -- Glenn Milne, Sunday Telegraph political editor and Jannette Cotterell, ex-Crosby Textor and now lobbyist with Executive Counsel Australia -- Angus Holland, The Age (Melbourne) Magazine editor and Emily Ross, freelancer, ex-BRW -- Rebecca Maddern, Channel 7 Sunday Night reporter and Trent Miller, Channel 7 cameraman -- Paul Austin, The Age State Politics Editor and Josephine Cafagna, Victorian Stateline presenter -- Ros Childs, ABC Midday Report presenter and Sean Mulcahy, television producer and adviser to ecstasy model Michelle Leslie -- Nicolas Rothwell, The Australian's Darwin Correspondent/Rupert Murdoch Godson and Alison Anderson, Territory MP -- Sophie Black, Crikey editor and Ben Birchall, community radio breakfast presenter -- Eureka Report and Business Spectator Editor James Kirby and Age food writer Mary O'Brien. Email us at [email protected] if you're aware of any media couples that warrant a public airing.
Journalism media couples: an updated Crikey list
Crikey is updating our list of journalists whose partners are other journalists or employed in the news business as PR agents or government spinners. Know any that warrant a public airing?