This Sun-Herald front page “exclusive” by Matthew Benns is one of the most despicable pieces of journalism I’ve seen in a while. Taking the eminently forgettable occasion of Prince Charles’ visit to Australia, Benns decides to chase down the disturbed young man who shot blanks at the Prince with a starters pistol during his last visit 11 years ago. The man has turned his life around and recently qualified as a barrister. As the story makes clear, all he wants to to is forget about the whole business.

Certainly 11 years ago was a traumatic experience and is something I don’t want to bring back those memories again … To think about it even now unsettles me a little bit … what happened back then was extremely traumatic and the effect it had on my family was deeply upsetting.”

The other people quoted in the story, including then premier John Fahey and his wife seem equally unhappy about revisiting it.

Faced with this kind of response to a story idea, a responsible journalist and editor would have quietly killed it. But not Benns or the Sun-Herald edito. Their idea of letting the guy move on is to splash his picture all over the front page. I am seriously considering cancelling my subscription as a result of this.

7 thoughts on “Shameless

  1. And how insultingly sloppy of Mr Benns to write that Prince Charles “remained seated” during the incident, when the photograph clearly shows him standing beside the lectern.

    I thought how someone found guilty of threatening unlawful violence (political violence brought on by mental illness???) could become a barrister would be interesting (a women in Queensland was allowed to join the Bar even with a conviction for marijuanna possession in her youth), but Benns preferred an Oprah-style emotional story, dredging up bad memories for no good reason.

  2. John,

    I am seriously considering cancelling my subscription as a result of this.

    If you do cancel your subscription, let them know why. Also tell them that you wont be deep linking from your website.

    Left, right, centre, it doesnt matter – the political bloggers are a lobby group who’s goal is rational political discourse. If the mass media isnt meeting our standards we should punish them with our ability to draw a crowd, and our ability to keep a crowd away from their publications.

    Apart from a few notable exceptions, the mass media doesnt meet our standards. We are only going to grow in number, so the mass media better get an idea of what standards we expect from them.

    Eventually they will playing almost entirely in our medium. It is best we demand the same standard from them that we set for ourselves now. Otherwise our medium will devolve to the predominant sensationalist garbage that we suffer from now in the dead tree publications.

  3. William comments above: “when the photograph clearly shows him standing beside the lectern”. True. A similar howler occurs in today’s Sunday Age report on the story, despite the Prince of Wales being clearly visible on the photo’s right. Don’t these characters even know what the Prince looks like? If they don’t, why are they in journalism at all?

    One depressing thing about such vulgar sloppiness as is embodied in dead-tree reports like these (thank you, Cameron Riley, for introducing me to the epithet “dead tree”), is that it’s as if the notion of a blog commentariat might never have been invented. A hundred blogging flowers might bloom, and still the Matthew Bennses et al will be their tasteless inaccurate selves. No doubt history’s last brontosaurus was similarly sanguine about his chances of fending off the newly-arrived mammals.

    As Evelyn Waugh used to put it when confronted with Fourth Estate crassness (or what passed for same 50 years ago): “The time, I think, is ripe for the restoration of the pillory.”

  4. Utterly terrible journalism. Just when I think that I have seen the worst of journalism in this country, I an yet again reminded that much of it is utterly worthless (and occasionally down right immoral) pap.

  5. While on the subject of shamelessness, I guess the next edition of the Illustrated English Dictionary will have a picture of Senator Amanda Vanstone under “brazen”.

    What sort of an outfit is she running? The misidentification, misplacement and mistreatment of Cornelia Rau merit severe censure. Vanstone’s cavalier shrugging of any responsibility merits sacking.

    But on the other hand, there is a silver lining. Now that the authorities have been alerted (and maybe even alarmed) to the gaping holes in Australia’s cut-price, privatised gulag, they might do some checking.

    Who knows, Lord Lucan, Jimmy Hoffa and Osama bin Laden may be sitting in Baxter at this very moment. Some of the biggest mysteries may be within hours of solution.

    On second thoughts, perhaps it’s too much to expect quick identification of OBL. I can imagine the Commandant of Baxter’s self-exculpation: “Yeah, well what do you expect, all bearded wogs wearing long flowing robes and carrying an AK47 look the same don’t they.”

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