“It helps them if they exaggerate things”: Michelle Grattan on Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Andrew Bolt

A panel of Australia’s top journalists gathered on Saturday night to discuss, amongst other things, the rise of “brand” journos who prefer to voice their own opinions and “exaggerate things” rather than sticking to the facts.

Grattan, chief political correspondent at The Conversation, told the audience: “We’re getting into more and more opinion journalism, and people who make their reputation on opinion. People like [Alan] Jones, [Ray] Hadley and [Andrew] Bolt.

“Their whole cache is not only to reflect grievances but also to have distinct views. It’s all black and white, and they are people who provide answers with not too much complexity. In a sense, it helps them if they exaggerate things rather than deal with facts.”

The comments took place at Sydney University’s honorary degree ceremony on Saturday night, an event which celebrated excellence in Australian journalism.

The panel consisted of Grattan, Laurie Oakes, Sarah Ferguson, Ray Martin and Caroline Jones, all of whom were awarded with honorary doctorates by the university.

Sarah Ferguson, a veteran ABC journalist, agreed with Grattan’s sentiment: “I feel incredibly strongly about this… I think this is a very scary thing. The push for the journalist to become a profile and a brand. I loathe the word brand when it comes to journalism. I like the idea that The Economist has no bylines.

“Laurie, and Ray and Caroline and Michelle are entitled to their bylines because they have done decades of extraordinary work. But if I’m starting out in journalism, I don’t need to have a profile.

“The next journalist that says to me they need to do something to protect their brand I might slap them.”

Ray Martin added: “I find the same thing with the opinion makers, especially on the 24 hour news cycle. There are people there giving opinions on the topics that Laurie and Paul know about that I wouldn’t listen to in the pub.”

Commenting on the idea that if you divide your audience you multiply your ratings, Oakes said: “I don’t think that’s journalism, that’s the problem. We call it journalism but it’s something else. That’s not what journalists should be doing.”

The veteran political correspondent for the Nine Network announced last week he was retiring after reporting on federal politics since 1965.


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