This is the final installment in a four-part mini-series. Read parts one, two, and three.

Of the websites we’ve profiled over the last couple of days, Independent Australia is a little different. Like Crikey, it’s a member of the Australian Press Council, and of the press gallery. However, editor David Donovan doesn’t agree with our assertion that it’s a “small” site. With hundreds of contributors and 1500 subscribers, Donovan said in a written response to Crikey‘s questions: “We are one of Australia’s most well-read news outlets.”

IA was the only member of the press council to run with the Barnaby Joyce affair story before the Daily Telegraph “broke” it in February, although Donovan said his main focus had not been the affair, or whether Joyce had fathered a baby out of wedlock.

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“We made the decision in November 2017 after receiving an unprecedented number of emails, texts, tweets and tip-offs about Barnaby Joyce … We had also read the True Crime News Weekly story the previous month on that topic and noted Barnaby Joyce had not taken any legal action. We decided to send Ross Jones to Tamworth to investigate the sexual [harassment] allegations because we felt it was in the public interest.”

IA editor David Donovan. Photo: supplied.

The failure of the mainstream media to credit IA or True Crime News Weekly with breaking the story rankles Donovan, particularly their reporting being dismissed as only “rumours”, including by the ABC’s Media Watch.

“The Media Watch example was all too predictable. Clearly [the Tele] did not break the story because tens of thousands of people had already read about it. At best, they confirmed our story. They didn’t want to give us any credit and so they didn’t. It has happened over and over again through the years and will continue happening no doubt. Media Watch and, indeed, other mainstream media journalists despise Independent Australia because we so regularly show them up.”

Donovan cited IA’s coverage of the Health Union Services scandal, and of James Ashby and Peter Slipper as examples of their reporting that was underrated by the mainstream media.

“We look for stories that the mainstream miss, or which fall outside their contrived ‘narrative’ and this makes us unpopular. In short, we show them up. I have a joke that I didn’t go into journalism to make friends and I have succeeded,” he said.

The Joyce saga has proved good for IA‘s traffic. Donovan said the site gets between 50,000 and 100,000 unique visits a week, but recent stories on Joyce have had more than 50,000 visits each.

Donovan started Independent Australia in 2010 when he was working on the Australian Republican Movement. “[I was] becoming frustrated with the mainstream media and its myopic focus,” he said. “Originally, it was largely a forum for articles about the republic and my own freelance journalism, but we soon attracted many contributors and a wider audience. The goal was always to provide news that the mainstream media misses or refuses to report. Also to not talk down to our audience, but treat them as equals — something the mainstream media refuses to do.”

He said there were few truly progressive news outlets in Australia, and IA filled a niche in the market. His goal is for the site to become more financially secure, by bolstering the subscriber base, and to do more videos and podcasts to “make use of the multimedia potential of the internet and improving broadband access in this country”.

In the meantime, Donovan’s view of IA in the Australian media landscape is noble: “Providing a truthful (most important), subversive, witty, vibrant alternative perspective to the mainstream media. A publication that looks its readers in the eye rather than looks down on them. It certainly fills a gap, which is why we are so popular.”

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Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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