Dr Mumbo

Flatbed journalism

Dr Mumbo has learned that the phrase “The writer travelled as a guest of…” at the end of a news article is rarely linked to great journalism.

Take today’s page two story in the print edition of Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald by Perry Williams.

smh packer macau

Williams – who “travelled to Macau as a guest of Crown Resorts” – reports on a promotional film featuring Hollywood stars to promote the casino.

Oddly, Williams’ piece (which also appears online for sister title The AFR) bears quite the resemblance to an article by Jenna Clarke published in the SMH seven months previously, which Dr Mumbo assumes did not involve any flat bed travel.

As Clarke put it in January:

“James Packer has proved that everyone in Hollywood can be bought, for the right price.

The casino tycoon, and aspiring Harvey Weinstein figure, has reportedly paid prominent environmentalist and The Wolf of Wall Street star Leonardo DiCaprio and actor-slash-restaurateur Robert De Niro more than $15 million each to endorse his gambling mecca in Manila.

The advertisement, filmed on location inside the plush City of Dreams casino in the Philippines, is rumoured to have cost more than $70 million to make.”

Or as Williams puts it today:

“It’s been called the most expensive advertisement ever made. The Martin Scorsese directed “short film” The Audition – made to promote James Packer’s new Macau casino Studio City – cost an incredible #US70m ($97m) to produce.”

Back in January, Clarke continued:

“The one-minute commercial, titled The Audition, was directed and also stars acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese. Both DiCaprio and De Niro have been two of his most popular muses throughout his 48-year career.”

Or as Williams puts it today in the print article that contains no new facts that weren’t in his colleague’s piece:

“The Audition’s stars, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, are thought to have pocketed $13m each for a shoot that lasted four days.”

Still, it’s unfair to point to the Fairfax writer alone. Even if the company’s slogan is “Independent. Always” (and he’s since filed an updated online piece from the red carpet).

Dr Mumbo notes a similar article in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph from Nick Tabakoff. He wasn’t amazed to learn “The Daily Telegraph travelled to Macau as a guest of Crown Resorts.”

And a quick look at Google News suggests that plenty of other journos got to pop on their inflight pyjamas for the trip too.

It really is a mystery why Mr Packer gets such an easy ride from the press…


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