The speech delivered by Leigh Sales, former host of ABC TV’s 7.30, during last night’s Andrew Olle Media Lecture, began with a really funny anecdote. She recounted a time when she mistakenly parked in the reserved space for the ABC Chair, the renowned Australian media figure and last year’s lecturer, Ita Buttrose.
The position of ABC Chair is officially a part-time role, and, on paper, it would be unusual for Ita to be using that parking space at the time, especially during the COVID lockdowns.
Leigh told the story of how, during the peak of the pandemic, she had to rush to the ABC studios for an impromptu studio interview and thought parking in Ita’s space wouldn’t be an issue. Little did she know that Ita would arrive at work only to find her space occupied.
As with any great anecdote, the storytelling was top-notch. Therefore, I won’t spoil the surprise by detailing the rest of the story. Instead, I encourage you to watch the speech or the TV program for the full account, https://iview.abc.net.au/show/andrew-olle-media-lecture/series/0/video/NS2252H002S00 or you can read it here. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-10-27/leigh-sales-andrew-olle-lecture-losing-interest-news-journalism/103031930
Leigh proceeded to expound upon the principles that have guided her throughout her career: the importance of unbiased and independent journalism. She stressed that when one embarks on a career in journalism, personal opinions and agendas must be left at the door. She candidly discussed her personal dilemma during the Australian same-sex marriage debate. Despite her personal views in favor of the issue, she recognized her professional obligation to represent both sides of the debate impartially.
Without explicitly naming individuals or organizations, Leigh’s speech addressed the issue of journalism today being tainted by various agendas. Her point was evident, and the audience could easily discern her references. She argued that naming names would divert from her core message about some of the causes of the phenomenon of news avoidance: people see through the bullshit
News avoidance is a relatively recent trend where people, for various reasons, have lost trust in the news and consequently choose not to consume it.
I shared my own experience of this with a friend who is a senior journalist while having drinks last night. I found myself frequently shouting at the radio or TV, expressing my disinterest in the issues being covered.
It’s not because I lack civic-mindedness. Since I’ve stepped away from the daily grind of media work due to my recent illness, I’ve become more critical in my reading, listening, and viewing habits.
Nonetheless, my love for my work in radio led me to attend last night’s lecture, which has been a tradition for me for over two decades. Next week, I am making my return to work, initially on a part-time basis, with the expectation of resuming full-time work early next year.
After a few months away and facing a life-threatening and life-altering condition, I am returning to work with a fresh perspective. My role is evolving, potentially in a substantial way, though the exact direction remains uncertain (Rod – Editor’s Choice won’t be returning).
In times of significant change and renewal, it’s crucial to reflect on the reasons behind our chosen path and the significance it holds. Leigh Sales’ speech from last night offered substantial food for thought.