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Journalism

Jan 13, 2012

Mark Latham’s Tele complaint to the Press Council

Today Crikey reproduces Mark Latham’s complaint to the Press COuncil.

Margaret Simons

Journalist, author and director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism

Of the increasing number of complaints over media practice lodged with the Australian Press Council — they’ve more than doubled, as Crikey reports today — perhaps the highest-profile example is from the former leader of the opposition, Mark Latham.

That complaint has been the subject of a fair bit of follow-up publicity and commentary, including from Latham himself in Spectator Magazine, from Crikey and from our firm friend Gerard Henderson. Today Crikey reproduces Latham’s complaint in full.

The heart of his issue is his allegation that The Daily Telegraph reporter concerned, Jennifer Sexton, had an undeclared conflict of interest because her mother was a teacher in the swim program about which Latham had a beef.

It doesn’t seem to be an area directly addressed by any of the current standards and principles of the council, although principle No.4 — dealing with respect for privacy — might be relevant. And doubtless Latham would argue that by failing to declare the relationship, The Tele breached Principle One — accurate fair and balanced reporting.

On the other hand, we already know that The Tele’s Neil Breen reckons that this is just “how we find our stories”.

It will be an interesting one to watch. Here is an unedited version:

B. Publication Information

My complaint is against: (name of publication/s or URL of website)

Sunday Telegraph newspaper

Date/s of publication (where applicable):

11/12/2011

18/12/2011

You need to send the Council a copy of the article or illustration you are complaining about. (In the case of a photo, drawing or headline, we also need a copy of any article to which it relates.) If the items was on a website, a screenshot needs to be provided in hard copy or electronically. Please send the relevant material by post or email to the Council. The headline or name of the item/s are:

Latham in hot water fpr spray

Latham withdraws children

C. Main Element of the Complaint

State, in 400 words or fewer, the main elements of your complaint. In doing so, please refer to any of the Council’sStandards of Practicewhich you believe are relevant.

The journalist Jennifer Sexton is the daughter of one of the swim school teachers at Camden pool, a clear conflict of interest of which the paper’s readers were not advised. Given the nature of the story (in which I spoke to the head teacher about problems with the swim school program in which my two sons were participating), Sexton was making a choice between her mother’s reputation and mine, thereby denying me any chance of fair treatment. A daughter would be expected to put her mother’s interests ahead of mine. Publication of the conflcit of interest would have completely changed the way in which readers would have interpreted the material.

I also believe these two articles breached the privacy rights of my family. I can see no public interest or matter of public concern in a father discussing the education of his children with a teacher within the NSW schools system. Contrary to the younger Sexton’s assertion, the only matter the NSW Education Department is now investigating is the breach of my family’s privacy by her mother and Bev Waugh (the head teacher).

Do you have a direct association with the matters or persons referred to in the article and in the complaint? If not, what reason do you have to raise the complaint?

I am one of the subjects of the stories.

D. Contact with Publication

Have you contacted the publication(s) or website about the matter(s) listed above? If so, in what manner and when?

No, not the publication itself, although I have placed a call to the head of News Ltd, Kim Williams. So far that call has not been returned.

If not, why not?

The journalist and publication in question knew of this conflict of interest and chose to ignore it, just as they would ignore any contact from me. The two articles have been published over the past two Sundays according to the newspaper’s standards. The Press Council is one avenue in which I can object to this breach of standards. Mr Williams is another.

1 comments

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One thought on “Mark Latham’s Tele complaint to the Press Council

  1. Edward James

    Not too hard to lodge a complaint when it is laid out like this, but many of the people slighted by newspapers haven’t a clue about how to go about getting redress. Edward James