“OMG, I was in a meeting the other week, and I realised I was one of the ‘older people’ in the room”, I told a colleague earlier tonight. “I was no longer ‘the bright young thing’. I was now the ‘older senior advisor’”, I added. … Continue reading Olle Scholars
“Because I haven’t lived in Sydney before, I didn’t quite understand some of the references”, my friend Sue told a couple sitting at our table at last night’s Andrew Olle Media Lecture. Last night’s lecture was given by Kate McClymont, the Sydney Morning Herald investigative journalist who famously writes about crime and corruption in New South Wales. The woman in the couple then related a story about how she had purchased a house from one of the crime world figures mentioned in Kate’s speech. Between purchase and settlement, hers and a bunch of other houses were burned down in suspicious circumstances, I recall her saying. “These are very Sydney stories”, I told Sue.
“I remember Abe Saffron”, is a phrase I’ve commonly heard in social occasions with older journalists. “I reported on the disappearance of Juanita Neilson”, someone once told me. “She’s in a ditch somewhere in the Blue Mountains”, is a phrase you’ll also commonly hear. Everyone in Sydney seems to have a dodgy crime story. Indeed, I know quite well one of the “flamboyant figures” Kate often writes about.
Because of that sense of familiarity, her speech last night got a lot of laughs. I loved this anecdote in particular…
Not that I am saying journalists are infallible. We are human. We make mistakes. Look at me, I identified the wrong person in He Who Must Be Obeid, the book I co-wrote earlier this year with Linton Besser. When I was told that the book would have to be recalled, it was one of the worst days in my entire life. But a setback for one person is an opportunity for someone else. In the middle of my misery I received the following text message.
Thursday 21 Aug 2014 10.36am
Hi Kate, It’s John Ibrahim her (sic) could u pls send me a copy of ur book that be nice…thank u.
Me: Very funny! Who is this really? Kate
“It really is John,” he replied. I had last spoken to the nightclub boss several years earlier when we had run into each other outside Goulburn jail. “I don’t like what you write,” he said. “That’s funny, because I don’t like what you do,” I shot back, mentioning his penchant for threatening witnesses. He pointed out that the charges against him had been dropped.
We ended up talking about our mutual love of the TV series The Sopranos.
As much of her speech dealt with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Sue and I both loved the fact the couple sitting next to us at dinner included Nick Greiner, the former NSW Premier who set up ICAC, and in fact became the first “victim” of investigation. Really interesting guy to chat to by the way, as was his partner.
The thrust of her speech was that, in many ways, investigative journalism, and investigative journalists are under threat. As well as for economic reasons, there’s the the issue of free speech and she mentioned the case of the Australian journalist, Peter Greste, currently in prison in Egypt.
But she also made the point that all journalism, to an extent, should be investigative.
People often ask me about the secret of investigative journalism. There is no secret. All journalism should use the same tools – curiosity, scepticism and the willingness to take the road less travelled.
The speech will be on ABC TV tomorrow night, and is well worth watching. You might even see me, as they often cross to images of the audience during the televised speech. “The one thing you need to remember is don’t drink during the speech as they’re bound to cross to you just as you’re having a glass”, I told Sue. I knew this from experience. There was one year when they crossed to an image of me twice during the speech: on both occasions I was sipping on a glass of wine. But there again, that’s “Very Sydney”, isn’t it?
Read the speech in full
Or listen here
“Andrew was 47 when he died” noted Mark Colvin at this year’s Andrew Olle Media Lecture. At that point I turned to my friend Sue and whispered in her ear, “I turn 47 next Friday”. A bit like the moon landing, the death of John … Continue reading Andrew Olle Media Lecture
“Oh my goodness”, I thought to myself. “I look like a male stripper…” I’d removed my shoes, my socks, my pants, my jacket and my shirt, but I was stuck on the bow-tie. Oh my goodness, who invented the bow-tie? I’d spent close to five minutes trying to get it right at the beginning of the night – and it’s a faux-tie, not a bow-tie by the way – and at the end of the night, close to midnight, I found myself struggling to get the bloody thing undone.
There’s usually only a couple of times each year when I get dressed up like this, and the Andrew Olle Media Lecture is one such night. I’ve been to all but a few of them over the last ten or fifteen years, and they’re always interesting, always fun, and a wonderful opportunity to catch up with colleagues. “Unlike an awards night or something like that, they always have some substance because of the lecture itself”, I told a colleague who was attending for the first time. In addition, you have the fund raising element in support of brain cancer researcher.
This year’s speaker, Laurie Oakes spoke about the industrialisation of journalism…
The trend overseas is towards more predictable news presented in more uniform formats because this is more efficient. It’s sometimes described as McJournalism or–in the words of the BBC’s respected political correspondent Andrew Marr-“bite-sized McNugget journalism.”
He spoke about the issue of declining public trust in journalism. He also argued politicians were, themselves, to blame for the so-called “dumbing down” of political reporting.
If you want to see a real dumbing down of politics, treat yourself to another look at recent election campaign commercials from both sides.
He went on to say…
Politicians make policy decisions on the basis of what will get the most favourable media coverage rather than what’s best for the nation–and somehow that’s the media’s fault. It’s tosh. The problem Tanner and Rosen describe is down to weak politicians, not the media. Can you imagine Paul Keating being so timid? The solution doesn’t lie with the media. Politicians need to grow a backbone.
As always, it was an interesting and fun night. And now, aged in my mid-40s, I no longer felt the need to go out socialising afterwards. No, I caught the bus home, and was back in my abode by about 11.30. It was some time, however, before I got to bed, thanks to that stupid bow-tie🙂
A mate who was sitting one seat away from me – who spends his working life as a food critic – noted there was something special on the menu for me, The entree at this year’s “Andrew Olle Media Lecture” was gravad lax, a typically … Continue reading Big Night Out
The “Andrew Olle Media Lecture” is one of my favourite nights of the year, professionally-speaking. I get to dress up (in the same tux I’ve been wearing for several years), I get to do a bit of schmoozing, and I get to hear someone interesting … Continue reading Andrew Olle Media Lecture
It was the end of a memorable night at The Andrew Olle Media Lecture, the annual cross-media shindig in Sydney. The lecture was delivered by Ray Martin whose central thesis was that good commercial television journalism is often supported by passionate media individuals, the likes … Continue reading And Then There’s Ray…