Jun 3, 2014

Can Gerard Henderson judge PM’s Literary Awards fairly?

Gerard Henderson is a well-documented ideological warrior -- can he put politics aside to judge the Prime Minister's Literary Awards? Chris Feik, publisher of Black Inc, and Morry Schwartz, director of Schwartz Media, are suggesting a way to keep the judging process transparent.

Gerard Henderson was recently appointed chair of the judging panel for the Prime Minister’s literary award for non-fiction. Henderson has a history of incessant and obsessive criticism of leading Australian writers and commentators with whom he disagrees politically. This can be seen at his Media Watch Dog blog, in his numerous columns and extensive correspondence. He is an ideological warrior whose regular targets include David Marr, Peter FitzSimons, Robert Manne, Elizabeth Farrelly, Margaret Simons, Malcolm Fraser, Virginia Trioli, Mungo MacCallum, Waleed Aly, Guy Rundle, Laura Tingle, Jonathan Green, Fran Kelly, Malcolm Farr, Mark Latham, Paul Bongiorno, Phillip Adams, Tim Flannery, Tim Soutphommasane, Nick Dyrenfurth and Hugh White. In other words, among Henderson’s political targets are many of Australia’s leading writers, commentators, historians and journalists. If any of these writers were to submit a book for the 2014 Prime Minister’s Non-Fiction Literary Prize, Henderson’s history of campaigning against them means they could have no confidence of receiving an unprejudiced reading. His appointment politicises what has until now been an apolitical award based on merit. The Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction professes to judge the best non-fiction written by an Australian each year. The politicisation of this award means that the award’s integrity has been seriously damaged. In such a politicised atmosphere, a new transparency is essential. Black Inc. will publish a list of all books it enters for the prize. As a sign of good faith, the award should publish a list of all entries received so that readers can see what was submitted and rejected, as well as what was shortlisted. We urge this course of action, which costs nothing and increases the accountability of the nation’s richest literary prizes. * This is the text of a media release issued today by publishers Black Inc., an imprint of Schwartz Media

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