“Independent” Journalism

? The Daily Telegraph

There are a great many moaning minnies out there talking about the loss of “independent” journalism. The crescendo is growing, particularly because fo the?upheaval?inside Fairfax as they realise that?alienating?readers doesn’t really pay in the long run.

One such whinger even maintains a blog that constantly moans about partisan bloggers because they don’t fit his world view of what “independent”?journalists?or commentators should be like. Every second post almost he takes aim at bloggers because they aren’t pure of thought and purpose like him.

Miranda Devine explains how it was at the Sydney Morning Herald and what “independent” journalism looks like. I imagine it isn’t too dissimilar at the NZ Herald or even TVNZ:

This column is based on my experience and on recent conversations with current and former Fairfax journalists, editors and high-ranking executives.

When I arrived at the Herald it was controlled by a handful of hard-Left enforcers who dictated how stories were covered, and undermined management at every turn.

“At one extreme, they could be likened to the KGB’s Cambridge recruits at MI6,” recalls former editor in chief Alan Revell.

“More generously, I think they saw themselves as ‘the keepers of the flame’, whose job it was to resist the approach that I (and others) had, which was to encourage a ‘broader church’ of opinion.

“In my view, the paper was not serving its market: its readership was predominantly on the north shore and in the eastern suburbs, not in Balmain and Glebe.”

Another former high-ranking executive described the newsroom collective as “sabotaging the paper and some very good journalists. It’s a crying shame”.

A former editor said: “They love acting like politicians act. To them it’s a war, to the great damage and detriment of the newspaper.”

Another former executive described the world view of the collective as, “inarguably Left-leaning, and anti-business”. It was also anti-religion – especially anti-Christian – and hostile to bourgeois family values.

“The tragedy was that (Fairfax’s) core audience was a conservative audience. You’ve never seen a paper more disengaged from its core audience. Particularly The Age.”

While editors in morning conference decided which stories should be covered, the collective decided how those stories were framed – and they were ruthless enforcers.

For example, in 2007, a journalist was assigned to write a story about the appointment as head of the NSW education department of Michael Coutts-Trotter, who had once served three years in jail for dealing heroin. To his credit, he had rehabilitated himself, but his conviction remained an important part of the story.

One former executive recalls the journalist being heavied by members of the newsroom collective to remove the fact from the article, because Coutts-Trotter’s Labor politician wife was a “particular favourite”.

“All the usual culprits just ganged up on the reporter and bullied her into changing that story, first to not include that fact at all. When she refused she was pressured to downplay the matter. The defenders of free press and independent journalism censored the story.”

He was struck by how overt the interference was: “Such was the strength of that group, and the level of confidence they had around their position. It was understandable, since they’d seen off very many editors and CEOs and directors.

“There used to be a saying that you didn’t need to worry about the current Fairfax regime because there would be another one along any minute”.

The collective, or “nomenklatura”, as one of my Fairfax colleagues described them, were not household names. They rarely had bylines because they did very little of what you might call journalism. They were too busy policing what the real journalists did.

Their tactics against me included bombarding my screen at deadline with poison messages about previous columns, or recruiting friends to lodge complaints about my work.