Yesterday hidden behind a paywall that is about as effective as many of its journalists and columnists was an article in The Australian.
The article was by someone whose journalistic integrity I will allow you to judge by your own standards, or maybe even his own.
The journalist I speak of is News Ltd’s Ean Higgins and in his article which I will dissect for us today he decides to take a couple of cheap potshots at myself and David Donovan, the editor of Independent Australia.
The background to this article is that Ean Higgins has not liked the way that both myself and Independent Australia have been publishing articles that correct the factual errors in The Australian’s coverage of the Craig Thomson case, coverage that is primarily written by Higgins and Pia Akerman, the daughter of Piers Akerman.
An article that I wrote on September 12th which exposed some of the many wild distortions of fact and complete fabrication of what the writers, Akerman and Higgins describe as fact was particularly distressing for Higgins.
In one part of the original article, I took the word of someone who was in attendance in court that morning who asserted that the authors of the article had been referred by the Magistrate for possible contempt of court charges.
Unfortunately, my source was incorrect as it turned out, so I corrected the record and apologised, as I feel that is always the appropriate response on the rare occasion we make a mistake on this matter.
The reason I wrote the article originally however was due to the Magistrate condemning the Australians coverage of the previous court mention in the Craig Thomson case.
Ironically had the Australian not printed so many factual errors that were highly prejudicial and seemingly designed to distort the truth I would have had no need to publish my article correcting the record in the first place.
I felt the need to correct the record as The Australian seems to have an aversion to doing so. So far the repeated false claims in articles by Akerman and Higgins have yet to be corrected and as yet Thomson is yet to receive an apology for the prejudicial nature of the misreporting on his case.
So let’s have a look at some of what Higgins states in his article that is meant to show how he gets his facts right because he knows his “craft” and is not an “amateur”
Higgins starts of with this nugget of wisdom;
“THEY have never or rarely earned their living from the craft of mainstream journalism…”
For starters never and rarely are opposites, completely different concepts altogether. The fact that neither David nor I write for main stream media, or a fringe dwelling rag such as The Australian that despite being far from main stream would like to think of itself that way to imply relevance is completely irrelevant to the “craft” of journalism as I’m sure many a freelancer will attest to.
Higgins then delves into the educational background of David Donovan, Independent Australia’s editor, and according to Higgins a “Self appointed tsar of citizen journalism”, a strange term thought up by Higgins that to me demonstrates the state of mind of the man as he writes.
What he fails to recognise is that David Donovan does in fact have a degree in journalism, but Higgins won’t let that little nugget of information get in the way of a good yarn.
Higgins then goes on to say;
“On these citizen journalism credentials, Donovan has attracted advertisers to Independent Australia, including ANZ, Shell, Connect2Solar, AON Insurance, Malaysia Airlines and the Victorian Department of Human Services, to name just a few.”
The citizen journalism credentials such as a degree in journalism and a successful growing publication has attracted some advertisers to Independent Australia certainly, however none of those above. What Higgins is referring to advertising from AdChoice which is a Google service. It would appear that clicking on the link displayed on the advert to discover this was too much research for Higgins to be bothered doing.
When it comes to who News Ltd endorses as advertisers I can only judge on The Daily Telegraph as I like the overwhelmingly vast majority of Australians don’t buy The Australian. Judging from the back pages of the Telegraph I’d say that News Ltd journalists are paid with the advertising dollars from prostitution, brothels, sex phone lines and pornographic video chat services.
Higgins then decides to have a cheap shot at me as an unsuccessful ALP candidate because I didn’t win in the last state election when I ran in the states safest Liberal seat, something I never expected to win in a million years, but anyway…
Maybe we should refer to Higgins as a failed Walkley’s entrant?
Higgins goes on to refer to the piece I published on September 12th that I spoke of earlier.
After David Donovan spoke to Ean Higgins regarding what I had been mistakenly told about being referred for possible contempt of court charges Higgins tells his readers his reaction;
“I told Donovan it was the first I had heard of it and said I would check with Akerman, who had been at the court hearing in question. Akerman said that while the magistrate, Charlie Rozencwajg, had complained among other things about a headline, there had been no mention of any referral for contempt of court.”
Whilst it is now clear that there was no referral for possible contempt of court charges there was indeed a referral to the courts Strategic Communications Advisor and possibly the Australian Press Council.
Let’s have a look at what was actually said by Magistrate Rozencwajg in open court;
“Before we commence. At the outset I feel it is necessary to state that the article on the front page of The Australian last Tuesday reporting on the mention held on the 2nd September was factually incorrect in several significant respects. The court certainly made no determination as declared in the blaring headline, in fact I made no determination whatsoever. I have requested the Court Strategic Communications Advisor to take this issue up with the editor of The Australian newspaper and if necessary the Australian Press Council.”
Magistrate Rozencwajg also described Higgins and Akermans September 3 distortion of the truth in other ways such as;
“Completely at odds with the facts”
“Many factual errors throughout the article”
“Not limited to the headline”
I guess Ackerman must have missed all of that.
Higgins then goes on to talk about an email he sent myself and David and has selectively quoted from. Higgins asked for his complete and utterly arrogant email not to be published, a request that we have respected.
Higgins puts it like this in his article;
“While Donovan and Wicks chose not to check the facts, I did, and then sent emails to Donovan and Wicks. My email to Donovan read in part:
“1/ Neither Pia nor I, nor the editor, has been informed of any possible referral regarding contempt of court.
2/ Pia, who was in the courtroom, did not hear a mention from the magistrate about contempt of court.
3/ A spokeswoman for the magistrate has said in writing that your allegation is not correct.
4/ The source to whom you attribute this false allegation, Greg James QC, has not backed it up.”
What I did in fact do was to check facts, as I always do.
Again the reason for my post was Higgins and Ackerman’s article full of falsehoods according to the Magistrate.
For Higgins to assert that he checked his facts would therefore lead one to the impression that he must have deliberately set about to publish falsehoods given there were so many errors in his article. If Higgins had indeed checked his facts, then the claims he made in his article wouldn’t have been there unless put there to intentionally deceive readers.
It is to be noted that Independent Australia sought the court recording in order to get an accurate portrayal of what occurred. It is also to be noted that Higgins has relied on the word of one person in the courtroom, the exact same thing he criticises us for doing. Even worse the person upon whom he was relying was Pia Akerman whose shoddy reporting, distorted facts, and utter fabrications of what was occurring in court resulted in the Magistrates above condemnation and was the reason I wrote the article correcting it in the first place.
In regards to the points he numbers in his email above, number one is accepted with a correction and apology made, and number two we have just covered off.
Number three and four though I have not addressed as yet but will now. A court media spokeswoman, not a spokeswoman for the Magistrate said she was unaware of a referral and suggested that a recording was the way to be certain, so we ordered the recording as was appropriate.
Greg James QC did in fact back up his incorrect observation on more than one occasion.
Higgins then turns back to criticising myself and Independent Australia;
“Donovan and Wicks broke the rules of basic journalism: check your facts before publishing, don’t just rely on what someone said they might have heard, act promptly when someone points out you may be wrong”
Good advice from someone who clearly doesn’t appear to follow his own “rules of basic journalism”
As Magistrate Rozencwajg so eloquently pointed out, Ean Higgins published an article that was “completely at odds with the facts”. The fact that Higgins did not attend the court mention proceeding meant that he was relying on what Akerman said she might have heard, and now both myself and the Magistrate involved in the case have pointed out that Higgins is wrong “throughout the article” in areas “not limited to the headline”. These errors were printed two months ago and have yet to be corrected or apologised for. Not what I’d describe as prompt.
That is all of his own “basic rules” broken.
Higgins then speaks of a vendetta against News Ltd and particularly The Australian.
I do indeed have a vendetta about incorrect reporting of events which are often in my view deliberate and written for political motives. If Higgins feels the Australian has been particularly targeted then I guess that is an indication of how often they get it wrong.
However as my readers know I have attacked Fairfax on this matter also many times.
Higgins near the finish of his article claims this before patting himself on the back for his many inaccuracies he describes as professionalism.
“But there’s a difference between opinion and comment on the one hand, and accurate, objective news reporting…”
Absolutely right there Ean, I completely agree.
If you want opinion and comment you can pay through the nose for it and purchase The Australian. The articles I have discussed here have been referred to by a Magistrate as “completely at odd with the facts” and were clearly setting out to attack rather than report, not the way I view “accurate and objective”.
Alternatively you are more than welcome to read Independent Australia or Wixxyleaks, where we research our facts, seek both sides of a story, and when a correction is needed we do it promptly and don’t try and hide it in fine print on a back page.
The public do indeed have a choice, they can pour out their hard-earned money into the pockets of Murdoch for a publication that loses money hand over fist and is losing readers at the rate of knots, or access their news online free at places like Independent Australia whose readership is growing at a rate only surpassed by the rate the Australian is losing readers.
Mr Higgins, it would appear that both the facts and time are on our side.