21 June 2013
Update 22 September 2013
I note that you had Piers Akerman back on the Insiders program this morning after a three month hiatus following his heinous comments about Prime Minister Gillard’s sexuality on June 16th this year which resulted in many members of the public (including myself), complaining directly to the ABC. I think it’s fair to say, many viewers of the show have enjoyed this hiatus, and in fact, we had been hoping it would be permanent.
This is evidently not the case.
You waited until two weeks after the federal election to have him back on which I feel is a sign that the producers felt his presence prior to the election would be a distraction. So clearly, you are aware of the divisive nature of his commentary on your show.
This morning, true to form, Mr Akerman used several opportunities to do nothing but provide the very opposite to what any reasonable person would describe as “balance”. So I ask, what exactly is the purpose of having this man on your show?
Mr Akerman does not behave like a journalist when he is on Insiders. He behaves like a Coalition politician, and is perhaps the only person you regularly have on your panel that comes armed with an agenda. How is this journalism?
This morning, Mr Akerman came prepared with allegations against former Prime Minister Gillard that asked that she be charged with illegal car use. I find this behaviour defamatory. He used a (fabricated) analogy with a Victorian MP to allege criminal activity. Even if these accusations are warranted, Mr Akerman failed completely to point out and then acknowledge Barrie Cassidy’s assertions that several Coalition MP’s including Tony Abbott had been found to misuse public funds, proving his off-the-charts bias. He repeated this allegation multiple times including one last stab when he was asked for his final observations at the end.
So I ask again, what is Mr Akerman’s purpose of being on this show? If his purpose is to consistently smear the previous Prime Minister of this country, then he achieves this aim with aplomb. But this does nothing positive for the reputation of your program. Why is it that a review of the many complaints against Mr Akerman by the ABC, has resulted in him being asked back on the show, only to continue the smearing of people of the opposite side of his political persuasion?
Insiders is supposed to cut through the political rhetoric of the week, not enforce it!
Update 29 June 2013
ABC program: The Insiders
Response required: true
Date of program: 16th June
Contact type: Complaint
Location: ACT Subject: Piers Ackerman on The InsidersComments:This revolting peddler of smut and false rumours needs to be removed immediately from the panel on The Insiders. His flagrant lies on todays show needs to be substantiated. He talks about “rumours that have been in the Canberra press gallery for years” he needs to name names. Ackerman flagrantly used the opportunity to repeat false rumours on the sexuality of the Prime Ministers partner – Ackerman was intent on embarrassing the Prime Minister by repeating and mocking her partner.Get rid of him. He does not belong on the ABC – Get him on the Bolt report where he belongs.
Sent: Friday, 28 June 2013 2:58 PM
To: Sarah Harmer
Subject: C37602-13 – Sarah Harmer: Insiders – Piers AkermanDear Ms HarmerThank you for your email about the Insiders program broadcast on 16 June.Please be assured that your concerns have been noted by our unit and conveyed to ABC News management who have provided us with the following advice:
The comments made by Piers Akerman about the Prime Minister’s partner on Insiders on the 16th of June were inappropriate. This was immediately made clear to Mr Akerman by Insiders host Barrie Cassidy and the other panellists. Before the program was over, Mr Akerman had issued his own apology for the remarks. Because Insiders is a live program, ABC News expects all of its guests to be capable of operating in a professional and appropriate manner. ABC News will be reviewing when and under what circumstances any future invitations for Mr Akerman to appear on Insiders might be issued.
Thank you for writing and providing the ABC with the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs
I was cyber-bullied by then journo turned indie-blogger, now News Limited columnist Tim Blair long before the term became mainstream. He targeted my work on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Webdiary in the early noughties and published comments that questioned my gender, asked whether I was human or ape, denigrated my looks and suggested I should be in a mental institution or drug rehabilitation facility.
It hurt, and I decided that ignoring the insults was best for my health and would not inflame my tormentors.
My journalism can be tough and pointed, but I argue my case on the merits, strive to comply with the Media Alliance Code of Ethics and ground my practice in the search for truth. If I get a fact wrong, I admit and correct. That’s what gives me the right to call myself a journalist.
But by around 2003 I found myself being asked by the ABC and Network Nine to appear on discussion panels with Mr Blair. I refused, on the grounds his work was unethical. Back then, MSM didn’t go online much, and his blog behaviour was not known outside the blogosphere.
Fast forward to 2013. It almost passes without comment that Piers Akerman, a person who does not pass the ethical tests of journalism, is a regular commentator on Insiders. His mendacity was on show in spades last Sunday, when he suggested that the government had leaked the famous menu but was unable to produce any evidence under questioning from Lenore Taylor. His other journalistic sin that day is well known – proclaiming alleged press gallery rumours about the PM’s partner’s sexuality and thereby the nature of their relationship.
Barrie Cassidy slapped him down, remarking that he had behaved in exactly the same unethical way as had Howard Sattler just days before. I expected that the ABC would follow the example set by Fairfax – immediately apologise to the PM and her partner and announce that Piers would no longer appear on Insiders.
I was mistaken. ABC news and current affairs, including The Drum on Monday, went for silence and censorship; see Don’t walk past, @abcmarkscott and @dailytelegraph
and #Mediawatch honest broker for silent, censored Piers’ ABC.
I am coming to believe that ABC news is cowed by the intimidatory stance of News Limited, as so eloquently described by Press Council chief Julian Disney in recent evidence to the Senate media reform inquiry – see Absolute freedoms destroy freedom: Disney and Journalist @MargaretSimons stands up to Oz intimidation, speaks out on media reform.
Note that News Limited has not only felt no need to comment upon the matter or discipline Piers, but made his vicious diatribe against his critics after the show its official statement through its publication outside paywalls in the Oz and its tabloids.
Also note that the ABC has, at least for now, the capacity for internal challenge. On Monday night Mediawatch publicised the silence and the censorship, and Q and A permitted an audience member to ask if Piers would appear again on Insiders, to which Tony Jones replied, send an email to Barrie Cassidy. On Thursday Jon Faine asked Cassidy the question, to be told that the matter was being discussed by ABC management.
Online audience complaints and emails to Cassidy have, as I write, remained unanswered.
There were near unanimous calls to lift the standards of public discourse after Sattler’s disgrace. The ABC, as the nation’s public broadcaster, is on the frontline. It must do better, and it must get clarity on the standards it expects from journalists it puts on air. They must be ethical and if they are not they should not be broadcast.
I contacted Insiders this morning using its online contact form:
I am doing a column on the ABC’s response to Mr Akerman’s remarks on the PM’s partner.
Could you advise whether or not the ABC has apologised to the PM or her partner, and whether Mr Akerman will continue to be a guest on Insiders.
In another sad, bad week in the MSM, my heart soared in my little corner of social media, where No Fibs had its highest hits since Tony created her six months ago. I thank Peter Parker-Smythe, who in the depths of the gender debate last week tweeted:
— Margo Kingston (@margokingston1) June 14, 2013
I suggested he join @jointdestroyer, and a Tweep suggested a new group called @StoppingSexism. I made contact, and co-founder Fiona Armstrong, a journalist, wrote Sexism: I’ve had a gutful which quickly became our most popular post. A great story at the perfect time – it may never happen again so I enjoyed the moment.
While she was writing over the weekend, the ABC made its contribution to the gender wars with Piers’ remarks and comments by Grace Collier on Radio National’s Outsiders that the PM had diminished her office by showing her cleavage. Citizen journo David Marler got to the bottom of that myth in a great fact-checker which Destroy the Joint promoted on Facebook as part of its #convoyofcleavage protest, which in turn received international coverage and brought No Fibs an international readership.
I’ve noticed since my return to journalism that the MSM tends to flit from story to story without grounding stories in facts or pursuing them in depth, and that at least some MSM websites don’t produce archives to allow readers to explore a story. There is thus a gap developing which David exploited this week by straight, careful news gathering with help from Tweeps.
Noelle Kebby also put the citizen journalism bit between her teeth after we chatted last week about her wish to cover Lyne for the election campaign. Because she is a current member of a political party she did not meet my criteria, but when she mentioned Ray Hadley’s deep involvement in Lyne politics, I suggested she report it for me. The result, after careful research which included listening to hours of Hadley audio to get his quotes exactly right, was a fine piece of straight, informative reporting.
The other big hitter was the piece I commissioned from Catherine Deveney on the issues surrounding Piers’ job at Insiders after Mark Colvin suggested, to my surprise, that if Piers was sacked as an #Insiders guest then Catherine would have to be expelled from Q and A.
So our top four in a top week comprised two pro-writers and two citizen journos, an excellent @NoFibs mix.
We also posted our first four citizen journalist scene-setter seat reports, Shane Willsmore on Sturt , Alison Parkes on Mitchell, Jan Bowman on Griffith and Margaret O’Connor on Eden-Monaro. Wikileaks Party campaigner Greg Barns posted on the many new parties having a go.
Sarah Capper bookended the week in gender with a personal review of her lows and lows as a media consumer.
And amid all that, I published a piece by University of Melbourne politics lecturer Sally Young on why she is a Twitter sceptic. Sally let slip her Twitterphobia while asking me for a piece for the University’s Electionwatch site debut next month (@electionwatch_). So I asked for a piece on that in return. I felt old and tired and out-of-touch with modern journalism after the ABC’s non-response to Piers until I read her last paragraph:
“My scepticism about Twitter is balanced by an enthusiasm for new outlets that use new media to provide competition, independence and diversity in news reporting. Margo Kingston is a pioneer in this area in Australia. So, Twitter sceptic or not, I wish her every luck with her twitter-based election coverage. It will be a very welcome addition to the political reporting landscape and, I am sure, a much more successful Twitter experiment than mine!”
Stick with me, folks. Let’s have fun.