Media pack turns on Rolf Harris. The Sunday Telegraph‘s deputy editor Claire Harvey had no doubt last month: it would be “totally unfair” to name the 82-year-old Australian entertainer who had been arrested by British police on suspicion of s-x offences. She said:

“He is a globally famous man whose reputation will be completely wrecked by any suggestion of s-xual impropriety. I believe we have absolutely no right to jump past the legal process … In this era, when everyone wants to have a crack at our ethics and nobody gives us the slightest credit for the good things we do, we have to take pride in the moral core of our trade.”

Until last Friday, no mainstream media outlet in the world had named the man. That changed when The Sun revealed, in a “world exclusive”, that the man was Rolf Harris — something anyone with a pulse and an internet connection already knew. Within hours, virtually every media organisation in the world had named Harris, and The Tele covered the story in depth on Sunday.

The decision not to name Harris suddenly looked to be less about morals than fear about being the first to move (a decision Crikey and Media Watch also grappled with). There were good reasons not to name Harris: he hasn’t been charged, quite possibly never will be, and is said to be emotionally vulnerable. But there’s a good reason to name him as well: any potential victims are more likely to come forward to assist police. So it’s murky ethical territory.

One thing is clear: we haven’t entered a shiny new era in which the media doesn’t identify people (well, at least celebrities) until they have been charged with an offence. If a newsworthy person is arrested, media outlets will identify them — even if it’s safest to allow someone else to do it first. — Matthew Knott

Magnay filing for The Oz in London. The Australian has picked up a class contributor out of London in Jacquelin Magnay. The multiple Walkley Award-nominated sports scribe broke the mould (she went to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission to demand access to dressing rooms) and plenty of stories at The Sydney Morning Herald, including drug scandals around cycling and Shane Warne and the long-running investigation into Firepower. London’s Telegraph came calling and appointed her Olympics editor to co-ordinate coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and last year’s London Olympics.

Magnay quit The Telegraph earlier this month but won’t be leaving London. She’s been filing for The Oz on Thatcher’s funeral and, today, the Rolf Harris saga and told Crikey on Twitter she’ll be a regular stringer: “Excited to be in London for Australian issues, in time for the Ashes!” It’s a handy pick-up for the paper, after closing its London bureau (staffed by Peter Wilson) earlier this year. — Jason Whittaker

Advantages of authors at The Oz. Still at The Oz, be prepared for a barrage of promotion for Nick Cater’s new book, The Lucky Culture. His opinion pieces have included a little reminder that the book is coming for some time. But things really stepped up in the last week with a soft interview in last Monday’s Media Diary,personal story in the weekend glossy magazine, and today a long piece on the ABC and some promotion dressed up as news. All recent online versions include video of a soft interview with Cassandra Wilkinson. Remarkably similar to the way Troy Bramston’s book was promoted by the paper. No doubt publishers are thrilled.

Tele‘s storm in a demitasse. Talk about lightweight stories. A yarn from The Daily Telegraph (and spread across News Ltd) claiming coffee breaks are costing the nation $11.4 billion a year is simply tosh, and someone at news.com.au seems to agree. The original story in Saturday’s Tele started:

“Employers have a reason to discourage their workers from ducking out for a coffee with new ABS figures showing it costs Australian businesses $11.4 billion a year in loss of productivity …”

But the story on News.com.au was a bit different:

“That 10 minutes every day spent on grabbing your skinny mocha and soy flat white is costing your boss dearly — $11.4 billion in fact. But don’t feel too guilty about the little extravagance and use of time as experts say the daily habit is not only good for you but good for your productivity levels too.”

Notice the difference from the opening paragraph in the Tele‘s story? Not a mention of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Makes you wonder if someone at news.com.au looked at the Tele story when assessing it for the website and noticed that it didn’t have any quotes or further reference to the ABS. The ABS was seemingly plucked from the air. The source for the story in both cases seems to have been a coffee company. The Tele reported:

“The study of 1200 office workers conducted by Australian coffee company Republica found that workers felt short coffee breaks benefited their employer and 86 per cent of those surveyed experienced a caffeine-fuelled increase in productivity.”

And on News.com.au:

“The endorsement to take a break comes as research compiled by Australian-owned coffee brand Republica revealed coffee breaks cost the nation’s businesses a whopping $11.4bn in lost time.”

So no ABS study? Perhaps it was Republica Coffee all along. — Glenn Dyer

Variety clix get nixed. For more than a century, the world of showbiz has turned to one source for its information: Variety, the bible for first vaudeville, then Hollywood, then TV, now download. Variety quickly became famous for its slick magaziney paper, and above all for its inventive headlines, which became the ACME of the subbers art, summed up in a famous headline for a report about the failure of rural audiences to go for films with rural themes: “STIX NIX HIX PIX”.

Since 1933, the paper has come out daily. Alas, no more due of course to the online revolution. In late March it abandoned daily paper publication, and so there is now no daily showbiz paper to open of a morning. How would Variety have put it? Ah, yes: “CLIX NIX PIX SLIX”. That’s good to get me a gig on … damn. — Guy Rundle

Your Q&A health viewing guide. Health policy is up for debate this week thanks to ABC TV’s Q&A program, featuring federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and the opposition’s health spokesman Peter Dutton. Dr Tim Senior, a Croakey contributor and a GP working in an Aboriginal health service in Sydney, has a long list of questions … — Melissa Sweet (read the full story at Croakey)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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