A warm reception. ABC veteran Quentin Dempster, one of around 100 news division reporters made redundant in the latest round of ABC budget cuts, has a new gig. Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald announced he’d be joining the Sydney paper as a contributing editor. He’ll anchor the SMH‘s live election coverage, the announcement read, and would “work on original video and feature assignments”.
But perhaps not all parts of the Fairfax stable are rolling out the welcome mat. Last week, The AFR’s Rear Window columnist Joe Aston had a go at Dempster for profiting once more from the arms of government, saying he’d “wormed” his way into a 99-year lease of a prime spot of real estate in Sydney’s The Rocks after the state government throw out the “housos and bums” who’d previously inhabited the prime real estate in a bid to gentrify the neighbourhood.
“Dempster scored a 99-year lease in September 2012 for $1.5 million,” Aston wrote. “And in April 2014, Sydney Council approved $393,807,000 of renovations to the Kent Street property. Only last week, Dempster was on the site overseeing the work of his lowly labourers. No doubt the upgrade will be more than covered by the stonkingly flash redundancy he trousered before Christmas. What was the beef he had with his lot in life again?”
Dempster’s hit back in an extraordinary letter in today’s Fin, accusing his new colleague of having defamed him in a “personal, vicious and unfair” item based on a “distressing inaccuracy” (Dempster says he and his wife’s 99-year lease dates back to 2010, well before any residents of The Rocks were moved on). “We do not support the forced eviction of housing tenants, and in this context your item is an incitement to hatred against us,” Dempster wrote.
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Guess someone didn’t tell Aston that Dempster was soon to join the stable? — Myriam Robin
Enemies within. News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt joined Channel Ten’s The Project last Friday to talk Tony Abbott’s woes and the like. Interviewing him was one Waleed Aly, The Project’s newest host, who’s been the frequent subject of Bolt’s withering writing in the past. Here’s a collection of things The Bolter has said about Waleed …
“I have long considered Waleed Aly, the former spokesman of the Islamic Council of Victoria, to be our most prominent apologist for Muslim extremism. He does not openly support jihadism, of course, but does attack its critics and rationalise or wilfully overlook some of its excesses.”
“It disturbs me that the ABC has given him a platform to continue such advocacy, and that ABC presenters vilify those of us who attempt to hold him to account.”
“Waleed Aly is the model moderate Muslim, used by the media to persuade us we have little to fear from Islam but our own bigotry.”
You can watch the interview (on Channel Ten’s website) here — the fun bit starts at about 12.40. Bolt begins by talking about all the journalists who’ve invested so much in Tony Abbott going. Later on, he has a go at Aly, his main interrogator at this point. “You’ve been a critic of his from day one,” he says, adding, “I’ve been following your career pretty closely … We’re meant to be nice to each other on camera.” They might have the same employer now, but it doesn’t appear there’s been too much water under that bridge.
Bolt’s show finally returned to Channel Ten last weekend. — Myriam Robin
Brissenden to AM. The ABC has found a replacement for Chris Uhlmann on morning show AM, now that Uhlmann’s focusing on political reporting. Michael Brissenden, formerly Aunty’s defence and national security correspondent, will continue hosting the show as he’s been doing over the summer. The dual-Walkley winner says he’s glad to return to the ABC’s radio current affair’s division, where he started his carer. “Despite the rapidly changing media environment, AM continues to be essential daily listening and one of Australia’s most important, agenda-setting programs.” Aunty head of current affairs Bruce Belsham welcomed the appointment, describing Brissenden as “a seasoned and canny political observer, a journalist with deep insight and knowledge and a radio talent with a beautiful voice.” — Myriam Robin
Foley front page didn’t breach guidelines: Press Council. The Daily Telegraph’s front-page publication of an image of murdered journalist James Foley kneeling at knifepoint in the desert was not a breach of the Australian Press Council’s standards, the Press Council ruled in an adjudication published today.
The image sparked controversy in August 2014, with critics stating the image was too graphic and could cause distress to the public, as it was violent propaganda.
In the Press Council’s statement, the council agreed with points from both sides of the argument, stating it was in the public interest of the people to be exposed in a “powerful way to realities which they may find upsetting”. The council emphasised the importance of well-informed public opinion. But the council also stated the publication of the image should have been published inside the paper, not on the front.
The front page was highly controversial at the time, with critic Jeff Sparrow writing on ABC opinion portal The Drum that despite the picture showing a man about to be murdered by Islamic State, the bigger issue with the publication of the image was the reproduction of it and the reinforcement of the murderer’s agenda. “The media should report on the Islamic State’s atrocities. But the emphasis on Grand Guignol spectacle inevitably leads to decontextualised discussions of evil akin to what took place just before the Afghan and Iraq war,” he wrote.
The Daily Telegraph responded to criticism by defending the publication of the image as being in the public interest. Editor Paul Whittaker wrote in an editorial published by the The Daily Telegraph stating: “We do not believe it is the role of the media to self-censor. The image is confronting. But the wickedness of this extremist Islamic group will not be properly understood while media outlets engage in self-censorship”. The Daily Telegraph likened the image to the famous image from the Vietnam War of the naked running child, burnt from a Napalm attack. — Crikey intern Abbey Casey
White men don’t commit terrorism, part 912. While news outlets rightly treated the Copenhagen shootings as a major story on the weekend, we received still further evidence of how white people never commit terrorism. The execution-style killings of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina last week, in which avowed anti-religion and gun nut Craig Hicks is alleged to have shot Deah Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Barakat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in the back of the head, were being portrayed as a “parking dispute”. When the American Right even declines the opportunity to demonise an atheist murderer, you know there’s some potent groupthink going on. Meantime, in Canada, a thwarted plot by Randall Shepherd and US girlfriend Lindsay Souvannarath to go to a mall and shoot as many people dead as they could before killing themselves, was immediately dismissed as “not related to terrorism”. Think about how either of these events would have been portrayed if the perpetrators were Muslims. For those interested in data, the death toll in the US from right-wing extremist terrorism since 9/11 significantly exceeds that caused by jihadists. But presumably they were all parking disputes. — Bernard Keane
You read it here first. A month ago, on January 19, Crikey reported on Seven West Media and its tumbling share price, which had just hit an all-time low of $1.21.
Last week, the Media Section in The Australian breathlessly began, “Diary can reveal …” and went on to detail what Crikey had written in January. This morning, it was the turn of The Australian Financial Review, which revealed this morning (and in articles published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) under the headline “Stokes Seven could face $1 billion writedown”:
“Seven shares have fallen from $2.18 a year ago to close at $1.42 on Friday amid concerns about the state of the television advertising market and the performance of its West Australian newspapers.”
So, what’s new about that? After all, the shares have rebounded from the low of $1.21 last month to Friday’s close (of $1.43). It has traded around that level now for more than a week. Well, we’ll know mid-week when Seven West Media releases its half-year figures in Sydney. — Glenn Dyer
And on this morning’s media gossip … Darren “Lurch” Davidson was at it again. Under a headline “REA attacks Fairfax model for real estate site” — quoting REA Group CEO Tracey Fellows and REA chairman Hamish McLennan — he wrote:
“REA Group has accused Fairfax Media of plotting to enrich a handful of executives at the expense of Australian homeowners with the launch of a controversial new online real estate business.
“In their first public comments, REA chairman Hamish McLennan and chief executive Tracey fellows raised questions about a conflict of interest in the creation of an industry-owned vehicle, half-owned by Fairfax’s classified advertising business Domain and real estate agents.”
Nowhere in the story did Davidson tell us REA Group is 62% owned by News Corp, which owns The Australian. Talk about a conflict of interest. And there was a similar conflict for Sydney real estate agent and REA Group director John McGrath, who was quoted in the story criticising the idea.
Fairfax Media reports its interim results this week. — Glenn Dyer
Expensive pork pies. NBC, one of America’s major TV networks, is already feeling the ratings impact of suspending its 6pm news anchor, Brian Williams, after it was found he had embellished a story involving a helicopter he was in flying into Baghdad in 2003, which, he alleged, was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade. It is now clear there was no such attack. After this was exposed for being a bit of hot air (to put it mildly) — most notably by military people on the same flight — NBC management decided to suspend him for six months with no pay. But now more stories have emerged to throw doubt on some of Williams’ other “war stories” (as journalistic big-noting is called). For example, Williams claimed to have met the Pope — a claim now seemingly discredited; he claimed to have watched the Berlin Wall come down — ditto; and he also claimed to have flown on a military flight with the same team of US special forces that found and killed Osama Bin Laden– impossible, says the military. Another pork pie?
As the controversy erupted and expanded, NBC’s 6pm nightly news, with Williams out of the chair (he stood aside and was suspended several days later), lost hundreds of thousands of viewers to rival ABC News. It averaged around 8.5 million viewers on Thursday night, against 9.8 million last Monday evening. And this could become a very expensive problem for NBC (whose parent company, Comcast, reports fourth-quarter profits next week). US media analysts estimate the nightly news took US$148 million in revenues in the first nine months of 2014. According to the estimates from Kantar Media, ABC News was close behind with US$144 million, while CBS languished in third spot with US$117 million (two decades ago it was number one). — Glenn Dyer
Sorry for all the, er, phone hacking. Trinity Mirror, the publishers of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People have joined the Murdoch clan’s News Corp (formerly News International) in publishing apologies for phone hacking. In the case of Trinity, the apologies were published on Friday in London in the Daily Mirror and yesterday in the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, years after News International and the Murdochs’ apologies. Yet, according to some London analysts, there’s a growing belief the scale of the phone hacking at these papers was on a par with what went on at the now defunct News of the World and at The Sun. At the same time the company lifted the amount of money set aside to handle settlement costs to 12 million pounds (around $24 million) from 8 million pounds.
And it could cost more because in a statement to the London Stock Exchange, Trinity Mirror did not rule out further allegations or claims of hacking and their “possible financial impact”. The apology said information from the phone hacking was used in papers in what the company described as an “unacceptable intrusion” into private lives. But nowhere near the billion dollar plus cost to the Murdoch clan, and the scalps of a couple of senior executives (Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson), the temporary humiliation of James Murdoch and dad Rupert and of course the loss of News of the World. — Glenn Dyer