Tuesday, 25 September 2018

The sacking of the Managing Director of the ABC

should come as no surprise. The only surprise is that Michelle Guthrie lasted as long as she did.
She was appointed with a lot of the sort of "we've got a woman in the job" type comments that should have made people suspicious from the start.
I am sure the Board of the ABC thought she was going to be a nice, compliant female who would do just as they wanted. I am sure that some of the staff thought they would be able to do just as they liked. 
There were complaints that she was "not a good communicator". Perhaps she wasn't. I don't know. I have never met her and I am never likely to meet her. 
I do know some people who work for the ABC. Several of them strongly believe they should be allowed "to do the job without interference". In other words they believe they should be allowed to work without being scrutinised and say whatever they want to say. One of them got very annoyed with me last year because I refused to be interviewed over an issue I feel strongly about. I knew her views on the topic were not mine. I did not want to jeopardise possible funding - which we got - because of the way she would likely have presented what I had to say. No publicity is better than bad publicity, especially when the publicity comes from a "respected" journalist within the ABC. 
Some ABC staff have been a law unto themselves for a long time now. They believe they are so senior and have reported on so many important issues they can do as they like. 
The ABC is supposed to be the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is a publicly funded organisation. It is supposed to be there to represent all points of view. The news is supposed to be presented in an impartial manner. Journalists are supposed to report the news in an impartial manner. 
It doesn't happen. It has probably never happened. Personal views will always get in the way although the best journalists will usually do their best to hide their thinking. 
But the ABC has been allowing bias to show for some time now. Of course journalists who want to enter politics are going to use their role to boost their chances. They will do it in the same way that other union members interested in a political career will endeavour to rise up the union ranks to the point where the conference members will endorse them or people in business will join a party and donate to it in the hope of pre-selection. The difference between journalists and other hopefuls is that journalists have another audience they can endeavour to influence.
A neighbour of ours was enthusiastic about a book she read last year. She thought it was "meticulously researched" and "very well written". She offered it to the Senior Cat. He looked carefully at it. He found errors of fact - facts that could easily have been checked. He told me, "I don't like style."
He passed the book over to me. Yes, errors of fact - I found some more. I sincerely hope my writing is much better than that of the journalist in question.
The book was written in haste by a journalist anxious to make a mark before a topic ceased to be news. It was written in a clear attempt not merely to inform but to present a point of view. The book has sold quite well. The high profile of the journalist in question ensured that it would. 
Our neighbour is a sensible and intelligent person but the book accords with her view of the world and that topic in particular. Her views have been confirmed by the journalist. Pointing out errors of fact to her does not help. She can't see them. They don't exist. The journalist "isn't like that".
It will be the same for many other people - and they will pass the book on to others to read. It will, and probably already has, done more harm than good. 
If Michelle Guthrie not only wanted to modernise the ABC but root out some of that sort of behaviour she didn't have a chance - whether she communicated well or not.   

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