Dr Margaret Simons – Centre for Advancing Journalism

By Margo Kingston,

March 19, 2013

I’ve known Meg Simons for more than 25 years. We met in the Fairfax Brisbane bureau in the late 1980s – she was The Age correspondent,  me a new recruit for the Times on Sunday. We covered the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and I learnt courage and persistence – and tried to learn detachment – from her. She’s since written novels,  investigative non-fiction on the Hindmarsh Island Affair, books on the Press Gallery and the media and a biography of Malcolm Fraser. She’s now an academic journalist at Melbourne University and writes on media for Crikey.

Meg is one of Australia’s finest journalists. She has also been a victim of intense, sustained intimidation by The Australian over her support for Finkelstein’s recommendations on media regulation and her disagreement with the paper on the merits of a power struggle in the Victorian Police force. Jonathan Holmes detailed aspects of  the bullying in Trivial pursuit: When The Australian gets personal. I’m told The Drum did not want to publish this piece for fear of flak from the Oz, and that Mark Scott personally cleared it for publication.

During its campaign, the Oz published a page one story falsely accusing her of  a form of corruption in the judging of a Walkley award. It refused to published a letter to the editor from former Oz editor Malcolm Schmidtke and former Sunday Age editor Gay Alcorn (my sister) which corrected the record.

When I had dinner with Meg and her children last November, she told me the Oz had staked out her home (CORRECTION: Meg has corrected my recollection – her children feared their home would be staked out after Meg was snapped by an Oz photographer at work). It’s my guess she’d be one of the people Press Council Chief Julian Disney had in mind when he said today that victims of ‘very bad abuses’ frequently would not lodge a complaint for fear of retribution.

Meg still has the courage to stand up for good journalism and good policy on media regulation. Here is her submission to the Senate media reform inquiry. She will give evidence at 6.30 tonight.