All the news (apart from the Middle East issue) that’s fit to print

The Saturday Paper — as its name implies — is a weekend newspaper published from Melbourne, Australia. Given this, it rarely has any real news, but some of the features are well-written.

There is a column called Gadfly (again the name would indicate what it is about) which is extremely well-written and is one of the articles that I read every week. It was written for some years by one Richard Ackland, a lawyer with very good writing skills, and is now penned by one Sami Shah, an Indian, who is, again a good writer. Gadfly is funny and, like most of the opinion content in the paper, is left-oriented.

The same cannot be said of some of the other writers. Karen Middleton and Rick Morton fall into the category of poor writers, though the latter sometimes does provide a story that has not been run anywhere else. Middleton can only be described as a hack.

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Time for ABC to bite the bullet and bring Tony Jones back to Q+A

Finally, someone from the mainstream Australian media has called it: Q+A, once one of the more popular shows on the ABC, is really not worth watching any more.

Of course, being Australian, the manner in which this sentiment was expressed was oblique, more so given that it came from a critic who writes for the Nine newspapers, Craig Mathieson.

Hamish Macdonald: his immature approach to Q+A has led to the program going downhill. Courtesy YouTube

Newspapers from this company are generally classed as being from the left — they once were, when they were owned by Fairfax Media, but centrist or right of centre would be more accurate these days — and given that the ABC is also considered to be part of the left, criticism was generally absent.

A second critical review has appeared on April 5, this time in The Australian.

Mathieson did not come right out and call the program atrocious – which is what it is right now. The way the headline on Mathieson’s article put it was that Q+A was once an agenda setter, but was no longer essential viewing. He was right about the former, but to call it essential viewing at any stage of its existence is probably an exaggeration.

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AFR’s Aaron Patrick shows us what gutter journalism is all about

Australian journalists often criticise each other, with those on the right tending to go for those on the left and vice versa. But, generally, in these stoushes, details of people’s private lives are not revealed.

But there are exceptions, and one of those was witnessed on March 31, when Aaron Patrick, the senior correspondent with the Australian Financial Review, took a swing at Samantha Maiden, a reporter with news.com.au, a free site operated by News Corporation, over coverage of numerous issues around women. (News Corporation’s other sites are all paywalled.)

In February, Maiden exposed the story of a young Liberal staffer, Brittany Higgins, who had been allegedly raped by a colleague in Parliament House some two years ago.

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Peter van Onselen is no journalist. He is a political operative

Peter van Onselen is an academic from Western Australia who came to prominence in 2007 when he co-authored a biography of John Howard, the Liberal prime minister who reigned from 1996 to 2007.

Nearly 14 years later, Van Onselen has graduated to become a journalist who writes a weekly column for the right-wing broadsheet, The Australian, and also functions as the political editor for the tabloid free-to-air TV channel, 10.

Recently, however, Van Onselen has shown that he is no journalist, but rather a political operative who looks to back his powerful friends when they need his help. And nobody has needed his help more than the attorney-general, Christian Porter, a close mate of his and a source for many of his stories.

Porter was recently accused of raping a woman in 1988, when she was 16 and he was 17. The woman, known as Kate, died by her own hand last year, and did not make a police complaint, though she did toy with the idea. She is said to have been a highly intelligent person, but the alleged incident appears to have taken its toll, and she was described by many as having some mental problems.

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ABC claims no funds, but sends Ferguson to the US to make worthless programs

The ABC is always whinging about the funding cuts it has had to suffer, with the Federal Government having cut the public broadcaster’s annual handout by a sizeable amount.

But the corporation makes its case weaker by splurging out on cosmetic exercises to keep its big names happy, with a case in point being Sarah Ferguson’s Four Corners program on the riot in the US capital on January 6.

Sarah Ferguson: vanity programs.

Had Ferguson’s effort offered some context about the incident, instead of being a straight news program, it would have made some sense. But what is the point in having an Australian reporter file a 45-minute piece about an incident that occurred nearly a month prior?

Audiences in Australia have been enduring a surfeit of coverage about the riot, with there being no shortage of news clips from US broadcasters being shown on the ABC, the other public broadcaster SBS, and also the three Australian commercial channels.

Add to this the fact that the ABC already has three staff reporters in the US. The corporation’s news channel has a weekly program devoted to the US called Planet America so there is no dearth of coverage of the country.

Ferguson and her husband, Tony Jones, went to the US on January 15 along with a production crew. The ABC must have spent a decent sum on their upkeep and travel. So how can the corporation justify its grumbling about funding cuts when it seemingly has plenty of cash to indulge Ferguson and let her make vanity broadcasts?

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We need to talk about Tom Switzer’s spin about News Limited

Australia was hit by horrendous bushfires in 2019. Picture: Pixabay

Tom Switzer is a right-wing writer in Melbourne, who is executive director at the Centre for Independent Studies and is a presenter on ABC Radio National.

He often writes in support of Rupert Murdoch and his media empire, for the simple reason that if he were to lose his current gigs, then he could go back on the Murdoch teat.

Thus his defence of Murdoch against criticism by two former Australian prime ministers, Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd, is not surprising. Sucking up to power is a common game used by writers who have an avenue to vent. Switzer has the Nine newspapers open to his rantings.

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One feels sorry for Emma Alberici, but that does not mask the fact that she was incompetent

Last month, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a taxpayer-funded entity, made several people redundant, due to a cut in funding by the Federal Government. Among them was Emma Alberici, a presenter who has been lionised a great deal as someone with great talents, but is actually a mediocre hack who lacks ability.

What marked Alberici out is the fact that she had the glorious title of chief economics correspondent at the ABC, but was never seen on any TV show giving her opinion about anything to do with economics. Over the last two years, China and the US have been engaged in an almighty stoush; Australia, as a country that considers the US as its main ally and has China as its major trading partner, has naturally been of interest too.

But the ABC always put forward people like Peter Ryan, a senior business correspondent, or Ian Verrender, the business editor, when there was a need for someone to appear during a news bulletin and provide a little insight into these matters. Alberici, it seemed, was persona non grata.
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History lessons at a late stage of life

In 1987, I got a job in Dubai, to work for a newspaper named Khaleej (Gulf) Times. I was chosen because the interviewer was a jolly Briton who came down to Bombay to do the interview on 12 June.

Malcolm Payne, the first editor of the newspaper that had been started in 1978 by Iranian brothers named Galadari, told me that he had always wanted to come and pick some people to work at the paper. By the time he got the oppotrunity to do so, he had been pushed out of the editorship by both the Pakistani and Indian journalists who worked there.

For some strange reason, he took a liking to me. At the end of about 45 minutes of what was a much more robust conversation than I had ever experienced in earlier job interviews, which were normally tense affairs, Payne told me, “You’re a good bugger, Samuel. I’ll see you in Dubai.”
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A small step for Australian women, a giant leap for Tracey Spicer

A year and nine months after she founded NOW Australia claiming it was meant to focus on the problem of women being sexually harassed in the workplace, former TV newsreader Tracey Spicer is once again avoiding public appearances in order, she claims, to focus on her own mental health.

Spicer has retreated like this on earlier occasions too: she disappeared after actor John Jarratt was cleared of harassment charges and also when actor Geoffrey Rush won a case against the Daily Telegraph that had accused him of sexual harassment.

After a series of incidents that can only lead to one conclusion – Spicer’s embrace of the #MeToo movement was meant more to embellish her own image than anything else – the women’s movement in Australia has been put on the back foot and left wondering how it will recover from the Spicer show.
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RWC commentators need to be lined up and shot

While many people have raised questions about the quality of refereeing at the ongoing Rugby World Cup, nobody, surprisingly has questioned the quality of commentary that is available. If one were to compare the two, the commentators would lose by a mile.

There is a strange kind of logic that has prevailed in management circles for quite a while now, namely that a person who is good in one sector of an industry would also be equally good in another. It is this kind of logic (?) that leads managers to appoint rank and file employees to positions of leadership. It flies in the face of logic to argue that someone who is good at following orders would be equally good as a leader, but that’s the conventional wisdom that has prevailed and will never go away.
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