THE ABC OF OPINION MANAGEMENT: PART 4
|Parts 1 and 2 of this investigative series explored key political drivers, and the framework for the opinion management process as a whole. These were illustrated and evidenced with clear unambiguous supportive examples. Part 3 revealed the mindset of the ABC Board, with apparent desire to preserve the relationship with Indonesia at the expense of Schapelle Corby's welfare.|
In Part 4 we will begin to investigate events at a more operational level. For our first foray into our database we will focus on what appears to pass for acceptable journalistic practice and behaviour within the ABC.
1. ABUSIVE AND AGGRESSIVE INTERVIEWING
Ethical journalists are well aware of the requirement for respect, objectivity and fairness when interviewing members of the public. Indeed, the AJA Code of Ethics covers this through a number of its clauses, amongst them "Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material", "Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice" and "Respect private grief and personal privacy".
But consider how the ABC interview members of the public. Consider for example how they interviewed Mercedes Corby, in the context of her struggling to support her sister Schapelle during her terrible ordeal. We recently discovered a recording of one such interview. Here are some extracts:
Play Or Download The MP3
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[Note: These are short extracts. Much of the interview
is extremely unpleasant and not suitable for a public website]
Mercedes Corby in fact did very well indeed, given the sort of journalist she was confronted with. The bigger issue though is what this open hostility clearly indicates regarding the ABC's position with respect to Schapelle Corby.
Consider those words and listen to the tone in his voice.
Is that the voice of someone adopting a neutral, objective, and truth seeking journalistic perspective? Or is it the voice of someone who has a clearly entrenched hostile position, annoyed that a young woman is standing up for herself and her family?
Is it the voice of true objectivity, or the voice of subjective bias?
Is it the voice of someone you would trust to report neutrally and fairly on this issue?
Indeed. I think the same thing too.
2. UNETHICAL RESEARCH & INVESTIGATION
If you were pursuing the father of Schapelle Corby instead of investigating the real case issues, how would you research him? Perhaps you would use the internet to search for background information.
Or perhaps, because Mr Corby served in the Navy, you would post a question on a naval message board, stating clearly that you were really working on an historical naval piece, and not on Schapelle Corby at all.
No, you wouldn't really do that. And neither would I.
But I'm afraid it appears that the ABC would:
Words escape me.
3. THE DELIVERY OF A SMEAR
So, after months of investigation, and after apparently using every dirty and unethical trick in the book, what did the ABC actually discover? They discovered that Mr Corby once smoked a joint at a party. No, seriously, that is what they established: Schapelle's father once smoked a joint at a party.
But what they actually reported wasn't this at all. What they reported was absolutely appalling. The fruits of their labour were embellished to make a series of false but hugely damaging allegations, and state them as fact.
Subsequently, they were forced to apologise:
For the ABC, that ridiculously lame apology, and a note tucked away on their website, the matter was closed. For Schapelle Corby and her hopes that Australian support would bring her home, it was devastating.
A MEMO TO MR STEWART
Allow me to help you with your story Mr Stewart. This is how an investigative journalist would handle it. He would actually ask the police, officially. Here is what the police had to say, for example, when they were asked if you had contacted them: "I can advise that QPS has not spoken with any journalist from 7:30 Report".
Here is what they have had to say on some similar fiction to your own: "We have found no links, nothing at all...". For the record, they even used the word "laughable" in that particular interview.
But more still: they are clearly sick of people creating smoke to give the public the impression of fire. They have even issued a certificate to make it plain:
That took me five minutes to find. Why didn't you find it, Mr Stewart? Or did you?
THE ABC'S ETHOS
The disturbing methods detailed in this article are apparently endorsed by the ABC, at least with respect to Schapelle Corby related stories. They make every honest and ethical journalist shudder, but the ABC would appear to be perfectly happy with them.
In fact only recently they told us that John Stewart was "a good, honest and ethical journalist". Apparently, he had only "made errors in the way he described certain things".
Ah, got it. That's ok then. Thanks for clearing it up for us!
Michael Corby lost his battle with cancer in January 2008, and Schapelle Corby continues to suffer in her Indonesian prison cell. Much of the Australian public have accepted what the ABC told them as truth, and have had their opinions shaped accordingly.