Aug 27, 2010

Hey Watson, first rule of speechwriting: the words aren’t yours

When I read Don Watson’s comments about the Redfern speech my overwhelming feeling was embarrassment, writes speechwriter, poet and novelist Joel Deane.

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*This article was originally published on August 27, 2010.

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34 thoughts on “Hey Watson, first rule of speechwriting: the words aren’t yours

  1. Gavin Moodie

    I disagree. The issue is not egoism but accurate ascription of authorship.

    The source of ideas and text should be acknowledged in all statements that seek to be taken seriously, whether they be speeches by politicians or anyone else, books, government reports, columns or articles for Crikey.

  2. Trevor

    I can understand Watsons pride in his work and wanting some acknowledgment for what has been recognised as on of the great political speeches of this country. Unfortunately by commenting he has sparked an unedifying spat that we could have done without.

    What he probably should have realised is that people who take an interest in these things would be aware of the author and that it was indeed a collaboration.

    Nothing though will ever take away that it was Keating’s speech.

  3. Socratease

    Shades of Hollywood here, where screen a credit (which attracts residuals) gets down to a union agreed formula of percentages of contribution to the shooting script.

    So, here we go:

    STORY: P Keating
    SCRIPT: D Watson

  4. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    Joel Deane you have convinced me, well done.
    Watson gets recognition by publically being acknowledged as Keating’s speech writer.

  5. redroger

    Don Watson should understand how odd it would seem if Keating said “…when I gave Don Watson’s famous speech at Redfern…”. Joel Deane is right – a political speech belongs to the speaker and the speaker, not the speech writer, will reap the consequences of the words.

    This is quite unlike the big playwrights (of whom Shakespeare alone will suffice) who are remembered by name after their most famous leads have long been forgotten.

  6. Joel Brooks

    There’s a pungent smell of irrelevancy permeating this spat. Why can’t old politicos and their minions decompose gracefully?

  7. redroger

    I thought rhetorical questions were excised by the mediator.

  8. kebab shop pizza

    The speaker gives his/her name to the speech by delivering it, so I agree, they own it. After all, they are the ones who cop the credit/flak. The speaker signs off on it as they would the letters that are 100% of the time written by someone else (usually a low level minion). A high level minion is still a minion.

  9. Carolyn Hirsh

    Well said Joel. Both you and Don Watson have plenty of personal writing success. The Redfern speech is Keatings. Don should enjoy the success of his books.


    Well, er…hmmm, yes, you say it in the first sentence: you’ve clearly never met Don Watson.

    Enough said.

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