Captured – Left, Right and Centre

In the past couple of months, there have been 2 “messy” media stories about the personal lives and personal conduct of Commonwealth Parliamentarians.  One story was about Barnaby Joyce broken by Sharri Markson in the Daily Telegraph and the Emma Husar story broken by Alice Workman in Buzz Feed.

Spartacus does not want to talk about the Joyce or Husar stories but rather about the response of the media elite to the stories.  In both cases, overt and covert criticisms were made by the Australian journalist intelligentsia about whether such stories should have been produced.  In the Joyce case because of the personal nature and in the Husar case because of the preliminary and salacious nature.  Just this past week, Workman was interrogated by, among others, Barrie Cassidy and Fran Kelly on ABC programs about her decision making to report on some of the details.

To suggest that there is no public interest in the stories, especially as they go to the character of elected parliamentarians and also the use of tax payer resources seems out right wrong.  What it does suggest however is that there seems to be a form of Stockholm Syndrome at play in Canberra whereby journalists develop a psychological alliance with their captors (politicians) as a survival strategy during captivity thus forcing them to pull their punches on stories that should be reported or otherwise to skew their stories.  This goes well beyond personal political biases.

Jonathan Swan is a former Fairfax journalist who has now hit the big time in the US and is considered to have some of the best connections into the Trump administration and Congress.  He is an Aussie done really good.  In a recent interview, Swan was asked what is the difference between reporting politics in the US and Australia.  Swan’s reply was that covering politics in Australia involved relationships with the Principals (the elected officials), most often directly through a mobile phone, whereas in the US, there are layers of intermediaries and staffers.

Does such a direct, personal and close relationship between Australian journalists and the politicians they cover affect their stories?  You bloody well bet it does.  Perhaps these journalist paragons of virtue actually consider and reflect on their journalistic methods and cognitive biases before they chose to lecture anyone else.  And if they ultimately conclude that they are afflicted by Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps they should reassess their modus operandi.

It is notable that both Markson and Workman are both younger and more recent additions to this journalistic cabal.  Let’s just hope they too don’t get captured.

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14 Responses to Captured – Left, Right and Centre

  1. Tom

    Spartacus, I think you’ll find Alice Workman, far from being captured by leftist politicians, was captured long ago by leftism. That means she regards journalism as part of the revolutionary struggle against the public interest as expressed at the ballot box and in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat under the necessary Marxist suspension of democracy — i.e. totalitarianism.

    On the other hand, the former girl of my dreams*, Sharri Markson, as a millenial has a need to be fashionable and is therefore vulnerable to leftism, but, being a joo, she has experienced first-hand the left’s hatred of her people.

    Unlike Workman, she has a snout for the public interest. As a former media editor of the Paywallian (a position currently occupied by a leftist revolutionary fruitcake like Workman), she is keenly aware of the selling out of the public interest by large slabs of the Australian news media.

    My money’s on Sharri to succeed Hedley Thomas (Paywallian) and Andrew Rule (Herald Sun, ex-Fakefacts) as Australia’s best newspaper reporter.

    *until Candace Owens stole my heart.

  2. Singleton Engineer

    Stockholm, or simply hothouse? Canberra is a relatively small city. Many of its residents spend a lot of time away from home.

    The two cited cases are by no means a complete accounting of the stories, perhaps some fanciful and/or actionable, that have circulated within my adult lifetime – say, after the Juni Morosi era.

    There are two ethical pathways for journalists, some of whom, no doubt, face the same challenges.
    1. Hear no evil, see no evil. OPP: Other People’s Problems.
    2. Rake muck in public. Becomes your own, potentially very damaging, problem.

    If I was to recount some of the juiciest stories I have heard from colleagues in Canberra during the past 15 years the front pages of national papers and several courts would be full for a long time.

    What to do?

    I have absolutely no idea what the best approach for a journalist is. The ethical and risk assessments are way beyond my pay grade.

  3. Tom,

    Spartacus well understands that Workman tends to lean to the left, well left. But it was she who broke a story damaging to the ALP, including certain unsavory details others who lean left (ABC) wouldn’t. Ditto Markson who tends to lean right and broke a story unfavourable to the LNP and was still criticised by those leaning left (ABC).

    There is, at least in Spartacus’ mind, a difference between reported stories that are biased and stories unreported for biased reason.

  4. egg_

    Workman tends to lean to the left, well left. But it was she who broke a story damaging to the ALP, including certain unsavory details others who lean left (ABC) wouldn’t. Ditto Markson who tends to lean right and broke a story unfavourable to the LNP

    Workman was taking care of Plibber’s (factional) interests; Markson was taking care of the LNP’s, throwing Barndoor under the bus (c/- The Guardian (Murph?) “you could hear the brakes squealing all over Parliament House”).

  5. Tom

    Does such a direct, personal and close relationship between Australian journalists and the politicians they cover affect their stories? You bloody well bet it does.

    The direct personal relationship between Australian journalists and politicians in Canberra isn’t an argument for Washington DC-style separation where journalists are shielded from the main talent by advisors.

    It’s actually one of the intrinsically good things about Australian politics.

    However, it’s not until you have the breakdown in the media’s commitment to public interest reporting – as we have had in the past decade – that the flaws in the system become a festering sore.

    Most Australian journalists are no longer committed to the public interest, but to leftism, which is usually the opposite of the public interest, and flout the professional ethics to which they are notionally sworn.

    The recently retired Jabba the Hut (aka Laurie Oakes) was the foremost practitioner of the ethical separation of journalist and the politicians he covers. He managed that dilemma masterfully and understood intrinsically who won and who lost as a result of every exclusive story he broke.

    Being captured by a politician or his interests was a sign of professional weakness for Oakes and therefore he never let it happen (even though in the final years of his reign atop the Canberra press gallery, his leftist bias was apparent to all, whereas once he regarded it as a matter of pride that no-one could guess how he voted).

    Now that much of the Canberra press gallery is openly barracking for leftism against the public interest, all bets are off. Most journalists no longer have the moral and ethical fibre that used to underwrite trust in them by the public.

  6. H B Bear

    Joh’s analogy with feeding the chooks was never more apt. The capture of the media in Canberra was never more obvious than at the height of the R-G-R Dark Ages when Kruddy was leaking from the backbench – directly to Peter Hartcher. KRuddy may have well had his own by-line.

    Canberra is the worst possible thing to happen to Australia – an artificial place filled with public servants, politicians, staffers and other dregs completely removed from the wealth generating sectors of Australia. It is incestuous from top to bottom and no-one will call it out because they know the snowball will grow and grow, capturing them eventually.

  7. Senile Old Guy

    However, it’s not until you have the breakdown in the media’s commitment to public interest reporting – as we have had in the past decade – that the flaws in the system become a festering sore. Most Australian journalists are no longer committed to the public interest, but to leftism, which is usually the opposite of the public interest, and flout the professional ethics to which they are notionally sworn.

    The arts and media have swung wildly to the left and are now left-wing barrackers, as many in the public (but probably not most) understand.

  8. Stimpson J. Cat

    Sharri Markson

    I wouldn’t read Sharri Markson even if she was in a Cleo sealed section.
    I’ve seen Trump balloons float better stories.

  9. stackja

    Alan Reid: fox among the roosters

    Late in this book the authors tell of an exchange on the day John Kerr sacked the Whitlam government in 1975. Reid, still working but no longer the eminence he had once been, ran into a group of younger reporters, some with tears in their eyes.

    Reporters: What do you think of this?

    Reid: It’s a great story.

    Reporters: You wouldn’t have said that if it had happened to Menzies.

    Reid: I’d say it if it happened to my own mother — it’s a great story.

    It was the perfect answer, a proper journalist’s answer. Get the story. Stay detached. Weep, if you need to, when you get home.

  10. Iampeter

    Firstly, none of these people are even remotely individualists, capitalists or advocates of rights protecting government and so none of them are “right wing”. They are all leftists to the extent they have any ideas about politics at all but really they just don’t know anything about the topic.
    We’re living in a time of almost total intellectual bankruptcy where out journalists know nothing about history, philosophy, economics, politics or even how to think in order to even begin to learn correctly. So what are “political commentators” to do in this situation? Why publish high-school level gossip and scandals under the cover of “public interest” in order to pretend to be talking politics when in reality they simply haven’t the faintest.

  11. Habib

    Captives? More like aspirants. Better money for even less work, and more opportunity to push people around and insult their intelligence. Hack heaven.

  12. Tim Neilson

    Being captured by a politician or his interests was a sign of professional weakness for Oakes and therefore he never let it happen (even though in the final years of his reign atop the Canberra press gallery, his leftist bias was apparent to all, whereas once he regarded it as a matter of pride that no-one could guess how he voted).

    Really?

    HB Bear has suggested (above) that KRudd leaked to Peter Hertcher, but my recollection is that Latham set a trap that proved conclusively that info went at warp speed from KRudd to Jabba the Hutt.

    Of course it may be that Jabba had captured KRudd, rather than the other way around.

  13. Shy Ted

    The real story is how the ABC covered these two stories – wall to wall vs barely a mention. Seems to me most journalism these days is the stories the ABC cover repeated willingly by the commercial media. So much cheaper than journalism.

  14. Myrddin Seren

    Of course it may be that Jabba had captured KRudd, rather than the other way around.

    More like Jabba feed the raving narcissist’s ego, stood back and waited for the flood of leaks -as KRudd rewarded someone with a shared appreciation in the genius of Kevin Rudd.

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