Andrew Elder has written a critique of Michelle Grattan’s career. Overall I think it is very good.
For Grattan, politics was something that took place within one of two buildings in Canberra. Outside the building was a continent, several excluded-for-immigration-purposes islands and a world that acted as passive recipients of whatever came out of the particular building in use at the time. From inside that building came announcements, largely unconnected to policy developments in that area or to self-interested lobbying efforts, and almost never followed up as to their effect in the country beyond. Wash, rinse, repeat, for four decades.
For people who do follow politics closely – and who are avid readers of Fairfax publications – Grattan’s offerings were thin fare. It may be true that if Tony Abbott does not succeed he runs the risk of failure, but there is more to it than that. She had a wealth of experience to draw upon, yet she set it aside in favour of formulaic reporting of the same old same-old, trying to make it sound fresh and exciting and mostly failing. Her daily journalism is an odd combination of grind and hype: each article stands like a bowl of tepid porridge with a lit sparkler stuck into it.
Grattan never attempted the High Road of Big Themes, like Paul Kelly and Peter Hartcher. She did not attempt to collect wacky anecdotes (books which are, in effect, the author’s Greatest Hits reel) like Laurie Oakes. She reported what was in front of her and was incurious about how taxes brought into the capital were expended in the delivery of public services, and how the delivery of those services framed how politicians were perceived, and how politicians thus perceived went about the communities that they supposedly represented. Her pronouncements and predictions on Fran Kelly’s Radio National show had no value at all.
That’s probably all true – but also a tad unfair. Michelle Grattan isn’t alone in those failings.
Leading Australian journalists are almost all into discussing political strategy and/or on a drip from one of the political players in Canberra.
(HT: Charles via Facebook)