The Weekend Australian‘s article on journalism academics was riddled with misrepresentations and straight out factual errors, fatally undermining its central argument. Cameron Stewart writes that journalism courses are not taught by “real” journalists and that those who teach are out of touch with the industry, as evidenced by our taking seriously the Finkelstein report on news media regulation. The other academics who are maligned can doubtless respond on their own behalf. I will confine myself to my own position, and to the new master of journalism at the University of Melbourne. Both are misrepresented in the article.

Readers will have come away with the impression that I was one of the academics who “enthusiastically embraced” the Finkelstein report’s central recommendation for a statutory regulator of the news media. This is not true. The article I published in Crikey on the Monday after the report’s release began with the words: “Bottom line: I don’t like the Finklestein inquiry’s recommendation for enforced self regulation for news media.” I went on to say that self regulation hadn’t worked, and that the industry was culpable for this. I argued that the best outcome of the Finkelstein report would be a strengthened Australian Press Council. I also said that if the choice was between the Finkelstein model, and a continuation of ineffectual self regulation, then the Finkelstein model was preferable, but that I hoped for something better.

In other contexts, I have consistently argued for freedom of speech, including in the recent controversy over a court judgment against Andrew Bolt. The other factual errors in Stewart’s report begin with the very first paragraph. He refers to four academics who gave their views in The Conversation, saying they are from “Australia’s top journalism schools”. Yet my colleague Andrea Carson, although an experienced journalist and respected academic, does not teach journalism and is not part of a journalism school. Other errors include getting Wendy Bacon’s job wrong. It would be tedious to catalogue all the other trivial errors. — Margaret Simons (read the full story here)

Peter Fray

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