Feb 21, 2018

‘The worst couple of weeks in the ABC’s modern era’

A former senior journalist has told Crikey the last few weeks at the ABC have been so demoralising internally that senior journalists he'd spoken to are even considering leaving.

Emily Watkins — Media reporter

Emily Watkins

Media reporter

The last few weeks have been more rocky than usual for the ABC. After handing back the now-infamous filing cabinet and then apologising to former PM Kevin Rudd over a story it ran based on something in that cabinet, last week the broadcaster courted new controversy by pulling down an analysis piece by its chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici.

And, even before that last blunder, one former ABC foreign correspondent and senior journalist, who asked not to be named, told Crikey the situation at the national broadcaster was “diabolical”.

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55 thoughts on “‘The worst couple of weeks in the ABC’s modern era’

  1. leon knight

    Good to hear that the journalists still have some faith left in the value of their work…this is outrageous abuse of power by the LNP and should rightfully see them booted from power for a very long time.
    The Murdoch plants in ABC management have to be weeded out and never allowed back.

  2. Djbekka

    Having worked at a place where low morale and lack of listening by the management was met by denials and a lot of worker blaming, I can only hope it will be a bit better at the ABC, otherwise people will walk. I know that the current government is so thin skinned that it thinks that ministers’ feelings and amour propre are the measure of ‘national interest’, but the ABC management has a duty to maintain a higher standard.

  3. paddy

    Perhaps the only positive thing that might come out of the current train wreck that was once called “Our” ABC, is that the current management has so obviously lost the plot.
    With a (hopefully) new Federal Govt in the not too distant future, perhaps the rebuilding can begin.
    But it’s going to be a very long journey. There’s just so much damage to repair. 🙁

    1. Robert Smith

      Why would you think a new government would be any different? They all go to war with the ABC.

    2. [email protected]

      So many basic rights have been attacked by this lot. I hope a cleverer person than I starts a petition for Emma. Her article was assessed, and is evidence based. The ABC has become supine at times, yet we need it more than ever. Journalists should watch ‘The Post’ and relearn courage, all of them. Emma asks the hard questions that Fran doesn’t always. The ABC must never become a State organ . Four Corners next?

  4. AR

    Jonathan Shier must be pleased as he will no longer be remembered as the worst toady to head the ABC.
    The decline in standards can no longer be ascribed to anything other than malign intent.
    This sort of debasement cannot be accidental or the usual flustercuck of over paid corporate know-nuthins.

    1. craig

      To the staff’s credit, they saw all this coming from a mile away when Guthrie came on board.

  5. craig

    The dying throes of neoliberalism manifest in Turnbull throwing a tantrum because their economic lies are being analytically exposed. It’s not the same as Bob Hawke’s tantrum over Geraldine Doogue, either. This is a fearful and desperate misuse of power on the LNP’s part. Disgusting.

    1. AR

      Craig – did the Silver Bodgie also have a problem with The Doogue?
      Are you thinking of the time (1984?) when Jane “The Terminator” Singleton became exasperated by his refusal to answer straight questions and ended the interview on 702?

      1. craig

        Was during the Gulf War. He did NOT like her coverage it and insisted she be sacked. But back then, the ABC still had a spine.

  6. crakeka

    The ABC is more and more resembling the Free to Air commercial channels. The formerly excellent science show “Catalyst” was last night more what one expects from the “Free To Air,” basically shallow and minimally “scientific”. Meanwhile news headlines are more about “click bait” that serious reporting. Not to mention comically transposed clauses on ABC Radio news. Does no one proof read news before going to air?

    1. Desmond Graham

      What science show? – I briefly stopped to see what was on catalyst this week while i wa walking from one room to another – very little science – perhaps the science of hugging,
      something about gut bacteria – poorly presented , poorly produced and you are right more like a 7:30 report not a state of the art science program. Now every nutter, and unemployable undergoing counselling will think it it in his gut not in his head eat differently throw away their tablets and all will be well. Or Centrelink should hand out good food vouchers and stop payments

  7. AR

    Lest any kiddies reading (HA!) Crikey think such antagonism towards the ABC is anything new, who can forget the preTefloned vocal chords of Nifty Nev demanding of a journo. “Are you from the ABC?” and refusing to engage when this was confirmed?
    Nothing new under the sun.

  8. Steve777

    The Coalition fundamentally don’t believe in public broadcasting. Their media mates, especially Rupert, regard it as unwelcome competition, to be eliminated if possible. I note that the Institute of Public Affairs’ (IPA) includes the following in the 75 point plan: “50. Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function”. The IPA is very close to the Liberal Party and actually played a role in founding it. I tend to regard their 75 point plan (and the additional 25 points published later) as what the Coalition parties really want to do but won’t dare say publically, especially in the context of an election campaign.

    I think that all of this Government’s dealings with the ABC need to be seen in this light. If the Coalition gets another term, the ABC as we have known it will no longer exist in a few years. Appeasement of the Government by the ABC and its management and staff won’t help.

    1. leon knight

      It adds a lot of insult to fearful injury to see those IPA talking heads turning up all the time on the ABC – mealy-mouthed paid propagandists one and all.
      It must gall the old journos to see it happening and feeling powerless to stop it – but stop it they must and risk the sack if necessary.
      There will be a huge outcry if one is sacked for refusing the LNP line.

    2. John McCombe

      The IPA’s 75 priorities describe a USA-style political environment, created here in Australia. Most of the points are radically different to mainstream Australian opinion, eg general opposition to privatisation, support for action on climate change, support for unions (even from the increasing number of non-members), etc, but you get the idea. The ABC never introduces the regular IPA panellist or interviewee as being from a radical right-wing organisation, thus normalising their views for the viewers.

  9. Teddy

    “…senior journalists he’d spoken to were even considering leaving.” Really? where were they intending to go? Maybe they’d prefer an employer who not only tolerates but encourages the sort of opinion masked as analysis that Emma Alberici published. That would be, errr…. News Ltd, wouldn’t it?

    Just to be clear, Emma’s opinion on this issue is also mine. I worked in media organisations all my life – not the ABC (obviously). And one thing I did learn: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

    1. brian crooks

      teddy, fess up, you`re a lib troll pretending not to be, I can understand why nobody wants to own that tag but your`e on a sinking ship, the sensible s are awake up and the others no longer count, tick tock, not long to wait.

    2. Zeke

      Where would journalists go? Overseas to a non fascist country. As to the hand who feeds Ms Alberici, are you arguing that the ABC must parrot the views of the government? It was an economic analysis, not a biting attack.
      I thought that to be a journalist you must be fearless in presenting the truth and not just print the views of your boss. Otherwise you’re merely spreading useless and dangerous propaganda.

      I’ve seen many criticisms of Ms Alberici’s article but not one has addressed its content. Why is that?

    3. bref

      On that, Teddy, we the public are the hands that feeds journos like Emma. In a country that is served primarily far right wing commentary through radio and print, the ABC is the closest we have to balanced views and commentary. With the appointment of ex-Murdoch executive Guthrie I don’t hold out much hope of things changing in the near future.

  10. MJM

    ” … The way they dealt with those cabinet files is almost a metaphor for today’s journalism. To give your stuff the sexy, arty treatment and spend so little time doing the basic craft of journalism.””

    Then this as another example: “In response, Guthrie said management had been running focus groups, sent a link to the recent annual public meeting and is “launching a program to cut bureaucracy and red tape”.”

    Guthrie has lost the plot – if she ever had it. The issue is about support for quality journalism, not about focus groups, general meetings and reducing red tape. Down to News Corp “standards” full of weasel words is all she knows.

    1. Duncan Gilbey

      The focus group and the staff meeting are the embodiment of bureaucracy and red tape.
      Both are process driven and produce little or no measurable outcome.

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