It was the live cross that caused the 24-hour news universe to collapse into itself: Celina Edmonds providing eight excruciating minutes of live reportage of Mark Latham’s appearance as a journalist at the Penrith RSL.
Edmond, national affairs correspondent for Sky, was on the scene as the former opposition leader waited to speak to the new opposition leader in his new guise as a Channel Nine reporter. Or so we were told half a dozen times. With lights shining and a Sky cameraman faithfully recording the entire train wreck, Edmonds detailed Latham’s every move as he stood just metres behind.
It was everything that is wrong with 24-hour television news: Sky, in its perpetual bid for fresh content, was reduced to covering a journalist covering a politician.
From Edmonds’ breathless development that chairs were being used to block Latham’s path to her cringe-worthy observation that Latham was drinking a cup of coffee, it was train-wreck TV at its fingernails-on-a-blackboard best. In another awkward moment, Edmonds kept a straight face as she relayed Latham’s answers to viewers just seconds after they were picked up by her microphone.
As the media scrum surrounded a clearly agitated Latham, Edmonds even lamented that his appearance was a distraction from Abbott’s press conference: “The veteran’s announcement that Mr Abbott has made here this morning … has been, you’d have to say, overridden with all cameras now firmly fixed on Mark Latham.” No kidding.
Back in the Sky studio, the panel agreed: “It’s quite revealing that all the cameras have been on him for the past 10 minutes and Tony Abbott’s a bit of a sideshow.” Of course, they would include your cameras, Sky.
Finally, after six interminable minutes, the inevitable Abbott/Latham “confrontation” came. And wasn’t it worth waiting for.
Latham managed a minute and a half of awkward back-and-forth with Abbott, as diggers yelled their disgust from the gallery. When Edmonds crossed back to the studio, the panel joined the veterans in dismissing Latham’s appearance as a “sideshow”.
Edmonds wasn’t the only journalist keeping a close eye on the former Labor leader — the media circus (which includes Crikey) has closely followed the freshly-minted reporter since his infamous run-in with Julia Gillard a week ago. But her effort — brought about by Sky’s insatiable appetite for content — was truly a farce.
As Latham put it when asked by Edmonds of his attendance: “It’s your choice to put the cameras on me, you can put them on Tony Abbott, in a free society, but the media has decided to do this.”
On this point at least, Mr Latham, we agree.