Alan Sunderland, Head of Policy, ABC News, writes: Re. “Rejuvenating journalism in a jaded age: Ballad of a Thin Man” (yesterday, item 15). “Mr Denmore” takes issue with ABC News Online’s coverage of the COAG Health meeting on the weekend, accusing us of lazy journalism by focussing on Opposition criticism of the Government to the exclusion of anything more balanced, thoughtful or insightful.

This latest contribution serves his well-worn thesis, but it doesn’t serve Crikey’s readers. It ignores the facts.

Yes, it is true that the ABC’s web page ran a story quoting Christopher Pyne attacking the Government’s plans. At one point on the weekend, it was the lead item. If that’s all we’d done, I could understand the criticism.

But the piece followed an earlier equally prominent story quoting the Prime Minister and the Health Minister at length on their hopes for the meeting.

And what about the other three stories we ran on the Saturday previewing the meeting and quoting a range of sources extensively?

Or the other four stories we ran on Sunday before the meeting ended?

Or the story we filed late on Sunday night after the meeting was over?

Or the two expert opinion pieces published in The Drum in the weeks leading up to the meeting, dealing at length with the policy imperatives behind the politicking?

Or the material placed on line by the AM, PM, World Today and Lateline program teams on the Friday and Saturday before the meeting?

Or all the accompanying audio and video content?

Or the live streaming ABC NEWS 24 material available on the website, including the full press conference with unedited comments from the Prime Minister and the Premiers?

Or the series of excellent Radio National interviews on health policy conducted on the Friday before and then posted online over the weekend?

That’s nine different text stories over two days, together with a wealth of program material. Not bad for “lazy nothing-at-stake Sunday template journalism”.

When it comes to explainers, backgrounders and contextual analysis, I’m the first to agree we could all do with more, and the ABC is currently exploring the best way to do that on its range of news platforms. There are already good examples of some innovative work in this area starting to appear on ABC websites, and there will be more to come. But if “Mr Denmore” wants to focus on the gaps in our coverage, he might want to begin by looking carefully at all the coverage first.

Criticise us for what we have really done, not what you imagine we might have done.

Peter Fray

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