Oct 012010

The fires of #groggate continue to create angst for the journalists of The Australian.

Today the fire-fighting team swelled its ranks to include Matthew Franklin, Latika Bourke and Geoff Elliott. Franklin, in particular, was quite active this arvo on Twitter, feigning all manner of faux surprise & confusion at the uproar created by his colleague, Massola, by Monday’s outing of Grog’s Gamut. Massola, Bourke and Elliott decided to get together in time for a lunchtime podcast-cum-back patting exercise as a means of reasserting The Australian’s position over Massola’s act of bastardry. All of the usual excuses came up….protection of journalistic ‘sources’, which Greg Jericho never was, the so-called privacy issue and Elliott no less, making direct reference to the left –v- right ideological paradigm, citing the ‘left’ as possibly more vehement than the ‘right’ in “outing” anonymous bloggers. We’ve all seen or been subject to the fallout from blogwars, comment box flamewars and we all acknowledge the internet as a nasty place, filled with nasty people. We’ve seen this week some classic examples of these nasty people, or trolls, as they’re called in the ether. Idiots who will deliberately make posts, comments or tweets aimed at an individual or subject with the purpose of incitement. Absolute waste of bandwidth in my view, but, they do exist.

I’ve had my own experiences with what was then proudly promoted as the ‘Right-Wing Death Beast’ during the Iraq War era, when the ‘right’, held in the awe of a global conservative political movement felt it their absolute duty to shut down any and all proponents of their ideological antithesis. These things come & go, and the smart internet inhabitant will learn from them, and not take them seriously. However, it can prove disturbing. So, when I see a journalist, attacking a blogger – and let’s be perfectly clear on this score, that is precisely what Massola did by stripping away a deliberately constructed anonymous persona – I tend to see red. My own experiences have been with a particular journalist, or excuse for same. I have very little regard for journalists who seem to believe that because they are public figures, because they are wage-slaves to a media mogul and they get paid to ‘professionally’ express their opinions, those of us who aren’t on their particular team have no rights to anonymity, to freedoms of expression under that anonymity and must have the bright light of scrutiny shone on us. For what reason, other than some perverted form of professional jealousy???

Massola and others have touted the line that Greg Jericho raised an issue of public importance, had that issue acknowledged by no less than the General Manager of the ABC, Mark Scott and so deserved the lauded position of public personality for his efforts. This is, of course, nothing more than bovine excreta. What Jericho did was raise an issue which ought never have needed raising, IF the main-stream media had been doing its proper job. That being, focussing on political policy and the impacts of same in the leadup to a federal election. Instead – and this covers the entire gamut of media outlets in this country – journos chose to focus of whatever Kevin Rudd was doing on any given day, creating false and misleading scenarios based on what-if thought-bubbles as excitement and incitement to those who really can’t be bothered with the machinations of our body politick as some perverted kind of fun-park distraction from genuine issues. Jericho spotted this ball-dropping by the media and called it for what it was. Mark Scott was alerted to this through some means or other and decided to shift the focus of the ABC media circus onto what Jericho had identified as lacking. Policy issues and not sideshows. Naturally, when the spotlight of scrutiny has an impact, it shines that much brighter on those who try to ignore it. Hello, Murdoch & Fairfax press.

Now, anyone who pays even a passing interest in affairs of a political or ideological nature will know that Murdoch media outlets, in this country at least, are distinctly right-wing, conservative, while Fairfax are ostensibly left-wing, progressive. The Australian, likely via it’s editor in chief, Chris Mitchell, realised what was happening with the shift in policy by the ABC. Clearly, The Oz was now more of a sore thumb on the media hand, the ABC being bandaged up by Scott’s policy shift. I dare say there was some professional embarrassment suffered. Analysis of op-ed pieces and column reporting in the late July-August period will probably reveal a subtle shift in emphasis by The Oz. Whatever the impact, it was crystal clear where the political allegiances lay within the walls of The Australian, and remains so today. 

Clearly, what Jericho managed through his astute & pointed critique was an embarrassment to the nation’s flagship newspaper and possibly to certain persons within. Who knows? Anyone so embarrassed isn’t likely to admit it. The crux of the entire issue, and what Matthew Franklin, Latika Bourke, James Massola and Geoffrey Elliott – and others inside The Oz if Franklin is to be believed – don’t get, is that an anonymous blogger employed in his day job as a Commonwealth public servant is not a public identity, celebrity, person of public interest or indeed, anyone of particular note in any way shape or form. The excuse of “outing” Jericho in the public interest is absolutely laughable. That what he wrote about created a public interest issue is equally ludicrous on the basis that if it were so important, why did the 4th Estate not highlight it’s own flaws at the time and bring what an anonymous blogger with an astute viewpoint had to say, to public attention at the time? The answer is very simple. Corporate embarrassment. An anonymous blogger embarrassed a media corporate. How dare he/she!!! We’ll do something about that, won’t we!!!

So, to Matthew Franklin and those many others within his office who he claims fail to understand the angst created by James Massola in doing what he did, I don’t expect you to ‘get it’, only to understand that what was done, was wrong. There can be no rational excuse for Massola’s actions. He deliberately placed in harm’s way the career of a man who simply identified a flaw within your industry and a failing of the Australian electorate by a Fourth Estate which should have known better. I don’t care about The Australian’s overt ideological bias, in fact I think it’s funny, being so obvious. I do care when journalists forget their place, their responsibilities and ethics in favour of their ideals and beliefs. Nothing at all to do with ‘old media –v- new media’. Everything to do with propriety and common courtesy. Try exercising a little and bushfires like #groggate won’t have you scurrying around making podcasts or twitter appearances.

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