|Just a few weeks ago, I came across the piece below in XenoxNews (http://www.xenoxnews.com), which was originally titled "The Anatomy of A Smear". It refers to an SMH report of Sunday 30th November 2008, and parodies its construction:|
A Lament for Journalism - aka The Art of Opinion Management
Mr Ed: "Ah, young Harry, we could do with a bit of a story on Corby, and there's something supportive going around the net channels which is in danger of catching people's attention".
Junior Scribe: "So it's best to cover it in some way, so as to cover our tracks, just in case?"
Mr Ed: "You've half got it son. It's your first on this case isn't it? Do you know how to write it?"
Junior Scribe: "I've got a couple of ideas, sir"
Mr Ed: "Throw a few words in at the start to imply that it's edgy and probably irrational. 'Notoriety', now that's a good one, and call it 'political'! Make sure you re-enforce the term "convicted drug smuggler" to imply that she is somehow guilty, without ANY reference to what actually went on in the show trial. In fact NEVER refer to the show trial whilst you are working here.".
Junior Scribe: "Yeh"
Mr Ed: "And be sure to play down the increasing international concern about the lack of any action to help her. I know what to do: blame a film! What a good idea, if I say so myself."
Junior Scribe: "Sure thing"
Mr Ed: "End it with one of the old smears to signal to the readers that she is guilty and somehow deserves it"
Junior Scribe: "Any in particular?"
Mr Ed: "Use the Dad. He's dead so he can't sue us (and that's a decent tip for future stories by the way son). Use the lag, and his fictitious claims that he was some sort of massive drugs baron."
Junior Scribe: "I take it you do actually know that a certificate of 'no disclosable outcomes' for him was issued by Queensland Police, and about their total lack of any interest at all in this mythical international drugs ring? And that you do know he was of very meagre means, especially for an international drug baron?" (sniggering). "Won't the public put two and two together?"
Mr Ed: "As if we are ever going to tell the public any of that, stupid boy! What they never see they will never know."
Junior Scribe: "Ha ha, I've got it now"
Mr Ed: "That lot should help to marginalize the impact of this Schapelle Song thing, and keep the process of opinion management moving along nicely.".
Mr Ed: "Ah, and yes, make sure you mistype the URL of the song link itself, so that the punters can't get to their turf easily. That's important."
Junior Scribe: "I'm there. I've got all of that"
Mr Ed: "Good lad"
And Junior-Scribe's finished article?
New York songbird's lament for Schapelle (Source: The Sun-Herald) (http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/new-york-songbirds-lament-for-schapelle/2008/11/29/1227491892588.html)
AN AMERICAN musician has gained notoriety after penning a political song about convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby. New York-based singer-songwriter Tara Hack has attracted rave reviews and 1000 hits on YouTube after releasing the track earlier this month.
Titled Saya Tidak Bersalah, I'm Not Guilty - Corby's final words before being sentenced - the song highlights her imprisonment and attacks the Australian Government and the media for their lack of support for the 31-year-old Queenslander.
It includes the lyrics: "She touched down, she didn't get far/ she got framed in Denpasar/ she planned to stay at a fine hotel, but her stay in Bali turned into hell/ take two weeks on a fine vacation, spend nine hours in interrogation/ a one-way ticket straight to heaven, she won't get out until she's 47."
Hack, described by US music website Top40-charts.com as a "highly acclaimed indie-pop artist", said: "I hope that in even the smallest way this song helps to bring awareness to Schapelle's horrific situation. I hope it is a tiny step to give Schapelle back the voice that was so cruelly and unjustly stripped from her."
Corby was thrust into the US spotlight in June last year following the screening of a documentary titled Ganja Queen on HBO, filmed during Corby's 2005 trial.
When a longer two-part version was screened in Australia, it reignited debate about Corby's guilt or innocence, largely due to convicted drug smuggler Malcolm McCauley, who said he knew the truth. McCauley was arrested in November 2005 when a police raid on his Adelaide home uncovered evidence of trafficking and pictures of him visiting Corby in jail. He served 15 months for his part in transporting 100 kilograms of cannabis to Queensland.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun-Herald, McCauley said Corby's late father Mick had been the Queensland-based recipient of his drugs since 2000. He spoke of a "well-oiled machine", involving Mick Corby and Bali airport security personnel.
Hear the song and watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-EENMoK9tA.
The SMH story is attributed to SMH employee Eamonn Duff, who I presume is "Junior Scribe" in the Xenox version. Ridicule though is perhaps the least he deserves.
Here, he essentially produced yet another re-run of a serious smear, which had already been debunked on a number of occasions. Presenting claims by a convicted criminal as though they have credibility, whilst ignoring the referenced certificate issued by Queensland Police and the comments by operational detectives that the claims were "laughable", appears to expose the standards to which Mr Duff works.
This was a story about a song: a talented artist on the other side of the world creating something extraordinary to support a suffering Australian. But he used it to re-enforce a message that had already been wholly discredited, and perversely to self-congratulate SMH for the offending "exclusive interview"!
YOUR HOMEWORK FOR TODAY
So, fellow journalists, shall we perform an elementary 'subject interview' as a class exercise, and construct some sensible questions for Mr Duff on his eloquent masterpiece? How about these just for starters:
Was that much trumpeted "exclusive interview" with convicted criminal McCauley paid for, Mr Duff?
If so, how much was he paid?
Did you not check his credibility with the police Mr Duff?
Why no quote from the police at all in your "exclusive" story Mr Duff? Wouldn't a quote from the police strengthen your story? Or is it that you believed that their comments would blow your story away as a blatant smear?
Please allow a fellow journalist to assist:
Do you see what he did there? He simply asked the police. That's what journalists do: they investigate the truth.
Why didn't you contact the lead subject of this story, Tara Hack, for a comment (and you didn't, because I checked)? Was that because you were too focused upon the objective of re-delivering a smear?
Did you obtain the Michael Corby police certificate Mr Duff?
If not why not? And if so, why didn't you mention it?
Allow me to help you again. Here it is:
Isn't the truth that the "exclusive" was wholly manufactured via the first drug runner who came along making such damaging claims, and that you avoided seeking credible substantiation like the plague, because you knew what the outcome would be?
Further, that you now re-run this smear as legitimate, even though you are well aware that it is bogus?
Perhaps even more pertinent:
Did you add the re-run of the smear to this story of your own volition, Mr Duff?
Or were you told to add it by your editor, or via editorial policy, as suggested by the Xenox article?
Do you have any idea how much damage 'stories' like this one do to the international reputation of Australian journalism?
Do you ever examine your conscience regarding the effect smears like this one have on the welfare and life of Schapelle Corby, Mr Duff? If the objective was to seriously harm the chances of a woman in turmoil struggling to survive, it appears to have been devastatingly successful. Congratulations.
Ok, perhaps the last question was a little out of scope for our class exercise, but I am sure fellow journalists will agree that the implication isn't unreasonable in the circumstances.
I am not picking on you Mr Duff, I am simply exposing the nature of your "story" and your role because YOU are attributed with writing it. Having said that, I am still investigating some of your previous 'stories' which are of similar stature, and which I will no doubt feature later: along with others by scribes of similar standing to yourself. Have a good day, Mr Duff.
Labels: eamonn duff, smear, smh, sydney morning herald