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'The Age' and 'On Line Opinion'

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 29 July 2009


When The Age decided to run a piece insinuating that On Line Opinion had shown bias in not running a piece by Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon it was not a charge that I could let pass.

It is unfair and damaging to our journal, and to the many people who make it work. As well it damages our unique place in Australian publishing as a place where all political points of view are equally welcome.

The whole affair is also an indictment of The Age’s journalistic standards and arrogant editorial staff.

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The paper is prepared to pass-off work done by a political party as their own “investigative” journalism and then quote the source of the work as though they were an independent entity. Their fact-checking appears to be non-existent, and their reportage in breach of the journalists’ code of ethics.

They are prepared to sully the reputation of a competitor on the eve of the launch of their own rival Internet publication, and then can’t even show that competitor the courtesy of acknowledging correspondence from them.

With standards like these no wonder that anyone who had bought Fairfax Media shares 10 years ago would have lost almost four-fifths of their investment if they still held them today. This is no way to run a fish and chip shop, let alone a major media franchise.

About the only positive side of the affair is that The Age implicitly treats an online media organisation as being on an equal footing with the mainstream media.

To those who have missed the controversy, you can read The Age’s story claiming we “canned” the article here. The article was actually published by New Matilda, so you can read it here. And if you want to get a much deeper understanding of the whole affair, a number of open interviews and some analysis are posted on Ambit Gambit starting here.

The brief outline of events is that Rhiannon’s co-author Norman Thompson approached our editor Susan Prior with the prospect of us running an article on Malcolm Turnbull’s fundraising in Wentworth.

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The hook was that excerpts from the article would also run in The Age. Susan “penciled” it in for Wednesday sight unseen.

This all seemed a little odd. Why wasn’t The Age publishing the piece? Why would they want the material on a third-party website and just point to parts of it?

The article arrived at 3:33pm on Monday. Susan did some initial work on it, but was sufficiently concerned to forward it to me for a second opinion on Tuesday morning. My immediate reaction was that this was not a piece that we would want to publish.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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