An op-ed by Prof Ian Plimer in the Australian, which was condemned as blatantly false by climate scientists, has been found to have breached standards by the Australian Press Council. In November, his column titled ‘“Let’s not pollute minds with carbon fears” argued that there “are no carbon emissions. If there were, we could not see because most carbon is black. Such terms are deliberately misleading, as are many claims.”
The article also referred to the “fraudulent changing of past weather records” and “unsubstantiated claims polar ice is melting”, as well as “the ignoring of data that shows Pacific islands and the Maldives are growing rather than being inundated”.
Despite a chorus of criticism at the time, the former editor John Lehmann defended Plimer’s article, saying “his voice is one of many which are important in the mix”.
In a lengthy adjudication the Oz was forced to publish on page two on Friday, the press council said the article contained inaccurate and misleading material in its claims that the Bureau of Meteorology had fraudulently changed weather records and that Plimer’s claims that there was no evidence polar ice was melting were misleading.
The newspaper breached two of the general principles of reporting: ensuring factual material is accurate (principle 1) and ensuring facts are presented with reasonable fairness and balance and opinion is based on fact (principle 3).
The council found that while it would have preferred Plimer’s links to the mining industry were disclosed in the column, the Australian did not breach guidelines in not disclosing because Plimer’s “past or present directorships of mining companies and advocacy in the debate around climate change were so well known” that it was not required.
Plimer is a professor of geology and well-known climate change denier who has served as a director of a number of mining firms, including Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill Holdings and Queensland Coal Investments.
In reviewing the article last November, University of New South Wales professor Katrin Meissner wrote: “This article is an impressive collation of the well known, scientifically wrong, and overused denier arguments. It is ideologically motivated and, frankly, utter nonsense.”
When News Corp let go its multiple Walkley-award winning chief photographer Gary Ramage last month it left the biggest media company in the country without a staff news photographer based in the national capital.
A spokesman for News Corp said the gap would be filled by freelancers and the company’s newly-established NCA NewsWire, to replace AAP, will have a picture desk.
But there is one resource that wasn’t mentioned but has become something all editors know they could count on.
It’s on tap and it’s free, but is it journalism? Scott Morrison has his own official photographer, Adam Taylor, who is based in the Prime Minister’s office, known in parliament house as the PMO.
Taylor’s pictures of Morrison hard at work in Parliament House and on the move around the country are now a regular feature in The Australian, news.com.au, Cairns Post and other News publications.
As you would imagine from an official photographer, none of them is unflattering or compromising.
When the prime minister spoke to Donald Trump last week Taylor was on hand to shoot his boss in his shirtsleeves in earnest conversation with the leader of the free world. That pic appeared on news.com.au with the picture credit “NCA NewsWire / Adam Taylor Source: News Corp Australia”.
In this case the photograph was curiously credited to News Corp, but sometimes the pictures are credited to “Adam Taylor/PMO”. It’s unlikely readers know what the acronym PMO means. We asked News Corp why it doesn’t tell its readers the photographs are not editorially independent and why they are credited to the publisher when they are handouts from the government.
“Major news organisations, including the Guardian, publish photos from a variety of sources based on news value and nothing more,” a spokesman said. “To suggest otherwise is mere speculation, unsubstantiated and totally wrong.” The Guardian has used photography supplied by the prime minister’s office – and attributed as such – generally when no other photography was permitted for security or when the prime minister is on trips or at events that it was not able to attend.
ABC millennials not amused
One of the benefits of being an ABC employee is the relative freedom to publicly disagree with your own boss. And there was no shortage of responses from staffers when ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose, 78, reportedly said younger workers lacked resilience.
“But it seems to me that today’s younger workers, they need much more reassurance and they need to be thanked, which is something many companies don’t do,” Buttrose said in a speech reported by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Latika Bourke.
Buttrose’s speech was given under the Chatham House Rule which “allows people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organisations” and is not to be reported by anyone attending.
The newspaper got around this by talking to people who attended the virtual event.
“She was speaking under the Chatham House Rule; the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age did not attend but sources who dialled in relayed some of her comments,” Bourke said.
Buttrose was quoted as saying: “They’re very keen on being thanked and they almost need hugging … they seem to lack the resilience that I remember from my younger days.”
Former foreign correspondent Sophie McNeill led the charge against the comments, taken as an insult by many ABC staff.
ABC journalist Erin Somerville suggested Buttrose “pop into the regional ABC offices where many of my millennial colleagues have been nothing but resilient while smashing coverage of the binfire that’s 2020- hug free!”.
Winmar unhappy with delay
We reported earlier this month that three AFL figures including media commentator Sam Newman had issued a formal apology and signed a $100,000 settlement with St Kilda great Nicky Winmar over comments they made on a podcast about Winmar’s famous stand against racism.
In an episode of You Cannot Be Serious, Newman, journalist Mike Sheahan and former Hawthorn captain Don Scott implied the anti-racist sentiment had been added later and Winmar was referring to his “guts” when he pointed to his skin.
After legal threats from Winmar the three podcasters agreed to acknowledge “what Nicky did was an act of Indigenous pride and defiance”.
But legal sources have confirmed the deal is far from done, as first reported by the CBD column in the Age.
While a legally binding agreement was reached, the formal agreement has yet to be signed and the Winmar camp is unhappy about the delay.
The offending podcast remains online, the public apology has yet to be recorded on the podcast, and the money has yet to be paid.
If the default is not remedied Winmar may seek specific enforcement of the legally binding agreement, Weekly Beast understands.
The stop-start closure of AAP has caused immense stress to the staff who were laid off then put on hold, only to be made redundant when the new entity downsized the workforce. But the final insult came this week when departing AAP staff were told they had to hand in their AAP-issued phones and iPads. Originally staff were told they could buy out their devices, but managers have now changed their minds and staff have to hand their devices in on the last day next week, with the vague possibility of acquiring them down the track.
“I understand there is some confusion regarding AAP assets and devices that are currently being used by AAP employees,” CEO Bruce Davidson wrote to staff this week. “As in Tony’s email below, AAP is selling assets to a new owner. Part of this asset sale includes plant and equipment, including devices such as iPhones, laptops, iPads, camera gear and even chairs and desks. These assets are required for the continued operations of the Newswire.”
Davidson told Beast he is “still working through options” and “no one will be left without a phone in the short term, even after they finish up with AAP on July 31”.
You can never be too careful when editing, as this correction in the Australian Jewish News attests. An article on Italian cheese in the AJN featured a photograph of bruschetta with cheese topped with prosciutto, the cured meat from the hind legs of pigs. In Judaism, of course, eating pork is forbidden (as is mixing meat and dairy) and the oversight was not appreciated by many readers.
Next week is the deadline for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to deliver its draft mandatory code to allow media companies and digital platforms including Google and Facebook to share advertising revenue.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg instructed the competition watchdog to develop the mandatory code of conduct after a steep decline in advertising brought on by the coronavirus pandemic made the outlook for struggling media companies even worse.
The hundreds of job losses across the industry, including another 40 this week when Mercury Capital shut down the eight magazines it bought from Bauer Media Australia, has left the industry reeling. The closure of Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, InStyle, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Good Health, NW and OK! brings to 240 the number of jobs lost in what was once the Bauer stable in just a few months.
Google Australia and Facebook have so far rejected calls to pay for content sparking a suggestion by the ACCC of a “collective boycott” of the platforms.
7.30’s Indigenous first
ABC 7.30 has hired its first Indigenous reporter in Ella Archibald-Binge, who will join the program later this year from the Sydney Morning Herald, where she is Indigenous affairs reporter.
Archibald-Binge has worked for NITV and SBS and won a Walkley for a story on The Feed. Her appointment follows a milestone appearance by Indigenous journalist Stan Grant on Four Corners recently.
Pell contempt trial grinds on
Former federal judge Ray Finkelstein, whose media inquiry was convened following the News of the World phone-hacking scandal in Britain in 2012, has been brought in as a mediator in the contempt of court charges against the media for breaching a suppression order about Cardinal George Pell.
At a case management hearing on Thursday, the court heard that the 21 separate publications, six corporate groups and 19 individual journalists were finding it difficult to agree with the office of public prosecutions over how the trial should proceed, including whether there should be one trial or a series of trials.
Justice John Dixon said the first trial should go ahead in November regardless, but Finkelstein should help parties to resolve their issues as soon as possible “without highfalutin letters where people throw rocks at each other from the tops of hills”. The media companies offered to pay for the services of Finkelstein to speed the process up.
Dixon said if they could not resolve issues he would decide for them in another hearing on 2 September.
“And if you don’t like that, you know where the registry is to go to the court of appeal,” he said.