Another Media Watch Dog, another Henderson Watch to the rescue, saving the Sydney Institute from the error-prone pedantry of its executive director, Gerard Henderson (for an executive he is). Last Friday the Dog was off his leash, dragging dear old Ita Buttrose into his mistake-ridden ways. Let’s go to the clipping:

“At long last Ita Buttrose has spoken publicly about what was known privately to some.  MWD Issue 138 referred to a substantial damages settlement which ABC and Southern Star reached with Alisdair Macdonald, following the screening of Paper Tigers on ABC1. Paper Tigers completely misrepresented the nature of Macdonald’s marriage to Buttrose in the film … The revised edition of Ita Buttrose’s A Passionate Life contains the following passage: ‘Overall I was pleased and thought it [Paper Tigers] captured well the spirit of the seventies’.”

At long last Henderson Watch can speak publicly about what was known publicly to everyone bar Hendo. The ABC1 program was called Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. Now Ita will have to re-revise A Passionate Life to remove the error Gerard inserted on her behalf. Tigers (of the Bengal variety) may be in vogue at the Sydney Institute but this is ridiculous. Gerard is making so many mistakes he is passing them on to innocent bystanders.

At the conclusion of his MWD, Henderson proclaimed: “I do my own research for my Sydney Morning Herald column and for my Media Watch Dog blog.” This is his most believable statement since Joseph Ratzinger was a boy.

Undoubtedly the Dog was sleep-deprived and working with great haste on Friday morning. This is also a problem on Monday mornings, as our man Henderson prepares his weekly SMH column. First, some background (of the factual kind): after John Major’s Conservative Party won the 1992 British election, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper notoriously declared “It’s the Sun wot won it”.

Such notoriety, it seems, has not penetrated the memory bank of the expert Henderson (for an expert on conservative politics he is). In the SMH on June 26, he opined:

“The problem is that many politicians became deluded about Murdoch’s power. The British commentator Melvyn Bragg made this point when interviewed by Lateline’s Emma Alberici in March … In response to Alberici’s reference to the claims by The Sun that it won the 1979 general election for Margaret Thatcher, Bragg made the logical retort: “Why should we believe them?” The Conservatives would have won in 1979 without Murdoch’s backing.”

The SMH had to correct the error the next day. Hendo’s column began with the words: “There is delusion. And then there is self-delusion.” Again, it is impossible to disagree.

The evidence suggests Henderson has become an embarrassment to Fairfax (The Age certainly thought so). At a time when the SMH is struggling to stay alive, how can it afford to carry a columnist who constantly misleads its readers? Names, dates, titles, times are a blur in the fading faculties of the Hendo-sphere (aged 66). Dr Evatt was much sharper, his memory in much better shape, at a comparable age (circa 1960).

It is said there are two types of people: those who like Gerard Henderson and those who have met him. The press gallery veteran Malcolm Farr knows Gerard well, hence his detailed character reference published by News Ltd, using language too colourful even for Henderson Watch. The point of contention was Gerard’s critique of the recent press gallery ball in Canberra (see MWD No.143, June 29, 2012).

The Farr thesis is that Henderson is a shrunken, narrow, miserable sod who received a free ticket to the ball, adding nothing to its charitable fund-raising efforts, but then bagged the event on his blog. This captures the Henderson method perfectly. He is that most despised of Australian characters: a non-stop whinger.

But for Henderson Watch, other matters are of greater concern: the continuing flow of Hendo-howlers. Henderson named Farr as a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery Committee, a position Big Mal has not held for more than 10 years. Then in his chronology of the night, the Sydney Institute executive director cum free-loader recorded:

11.25pm. It’s all over. The party and dancing commences — or Divertimento.  Until Arrivederci at 2pm.”

That’s one hell of a night (and day). I know Gerard is used to long-winded Institute functions, with his Jurassic Park audience nodding off after their last sip of Milo, but really, Arrivederci at 2pm? No wonder the press gallery ball started late (as the MWD whinger repeatedly complained). According to Gerard it was a 19 hour function — longer even than the time one needs to read a Henderson letter.

The number of Hendo-howlers recorded in this season of Henderson Watch now stands at 47. Enough said.

*We note that the website has since been changed to 2am