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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggmV2fIN3j4[/youtube]

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.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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