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A remarkable campaign

By Richard Stanton - posted Monday, 20 September 2010

A public call for an inquiry into the media coverage of the recent election campaign misses the point of the value of the Australian-ness of the reporting.

John Menadue used ABC radio to boost his call for an inquiry in the belief that the news media trivialised and personalised the campaign.

Menadue, a highly-respected former public servant, diplomat, and corporate chief executive, was following up from his earlier remarks at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival where he spoke on the role of the news media in the promotion of health; but he used the platform to have a poke at journalists and politicians.


The Australian polity and the media, he said “are in a downward spiral, almost a death wish. Disappointment and disillusionment with politics and the media is widespread and growing.”

Menadue’s remarks at the Writer’s Festival may have provided the trigger for Barrie Cassidy on ABC’s Insiders a few days later to pointedly ask “out of the blue” of the prime minister what she thought of News Limited’s coverage of the campaign.

Ms Gillard responded that she believed there was “an obligation on news organisations in the modern age to act ethically and responsibly and report the facts”.

Despite the fact that the campaign had concluded, Ms Gillard used the question to turn the attack back on Mr Abbott, but Cassidy was not satisfied.

He said Greens leader Senator Brown had commented on News Limited - that “it had stepped out of its role of the fourth estate”.

Ms Gillard jumped in, saying she did not “believe in editorialising on the front page” and that she had joked that “Sky TV is endlessly journalist interviewing journalists. The politicians are no longer required.”


Ms Gillard’s statement echoed Mr Menadue’s remarks at the Writer’s Festival … “With so little news to break or analyse, it is not surprising that journalists spend such an inordinate amount of time-sharing opinions with each other”.

In what is now standard practice in strategy development and the tactic of media stakeholder engagement, the Cassidy/Gillard interview set up nicely the opportunity for Mr Menadue to return to ABC a few days later to make his call for a public inquiry.

While Mr Menadue’s attack may have been warranted in the context of his Writer’s Festival comments about the complexity of the health system in Australia and its capacity to engage in a meaningful way with the media, his attack on campaign journalism and his call for an inquiry into its coverage missed the point.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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