Tag Archives: Journalism

Journalism 101

When researching details on current issues, best to check with the horse’s mouth before publishing. This is called fact checking.

Further comment on today’s “news” can be found here.

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The Chicken Aftermath

The Age continues to push its damning agenda on the Boris video, this time with Caroline Wilson taking the wheel. I have already made my views on the issue clear (here and here).

While I see Wilson’s general point, her indignation is typically over the top. And I couldn’t let her write this shit below without responding:

Incredibly, it is not even 18 months since James Brayshaw and his new board won the right to fight again for survival at Arden Street. Brayshaw might not have placed a dint in the multimillion-dollar debt nor replaced the Gold Coast fixture money nor located his group of “white knights” but together with his CEO, Eugene Arocca, much has been achieved since the late summer of 2008.

Brayshaw and Arocca have reduced NMFC’s interest bearing debt from $4.37m to $3.25m – a lot more than a dint. And the GC fixture money was replaced, to some extent, by the largest sponsorship deal in the club’s history (Mazda). Caro – this backhander is misleading and irresponsible. I have defended you in the past but this is indefensible. Lift your game.

Of more interest to me are a couple of twists to the Boris story revealed in another article (Caro Wilson with Sam Lane). First, that Adam Simpson would have retired from the game last Thursday had Mazda pulled out of the sponsorship agreement, and that Andrew Demetriou personally contacted Simmo to convince him to stay. Full-on.

Second, that it was a club staff member that posted the video online – not a player (as previously reported)! WTF!?! I am literally speechless.

Finally, in wrapping up this morning’s chicken media, I can’t ignore an article in today’s Hun by Jason Akermanis doing what he does best – telling it like it is. Like most of Aker’s commentary, I don’t agree with everything he says, but his opinion is well-considered and unquestionably honest – a rarity among the media trained players of today. And he brings the sort of perspective that The Age and much of the media have been lacking this last week – something I rarely say about The Hun. Thanks for keeping it real Aker.

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The Caro Conspiracy Theory

I recently vented my anger at peeps getting stuck into Caroline Wilson (particularly when they get personal). While it was directed at all her abusive critics, I did cite a particular thread on the BigFooty forums as an example. This prompted a backlash of comments from unsympathetic NMFC supporters! It seems I inadvertently stumbled across a monumental conspiracy theory, and in so doing, brought to the surface a deep wound that refuses to heal. Here’s my take on it:

The Theory

Essentially, Caroline Wilson (and to a lesser extend, a few other journos) stand accused of acting as the AFL’s mouthpiece on the Gold Coast relocation issue. According to GoldCoastTruth.org, Wilson did this in return for an ‘ongoing supply of inside information’ from the AFL, providing her with exclusives to scoop her media competitors.

The Evidence

GoldCoastTruth.org’s evidence is an extensive (and painstakingly impressive) archive of articles written by Caroline Wilson on the GC issue. Potentially incriminating excerpts are not deconstructed individually. Rather, the website suggests the reader keep an eye out for a few things, such as how Wilson becomes more “desperate and dramatic” the closer the relocation deadline approaches.

As far as I can tell, this is the extent of the evidence.

The Case For

Among the articles cited, there are two clear instances that support an argument for misleading journalism:

Example 1

“Demetriou yesterday reminded all that the competition was ploughing $9.6 million annually into the Kangaroos and that the AFL and the 15 other clubs had every right to question their future direction if their shareholders were not prepared to personally invest in it.” (‘Gold Coast warms to Kangaroos’, The Sunday Age, 22/4/2007)

As was pointed out soon after this rash statement was published, all clubs receive $7 million p.a. from the AFL. North received an extra $1.2 million through selling 3 home games to the Gold Coast, and another $1.4 million in Additional Special Distribution (ASD) funding. ASD funding is not designed to prop up unsustainable clubs, it’s a redistribution of funding to clubs that are shafted by crap stadium deals (Richmond, Melbourne and the Dogs have all received ASD funding).

Example 2

“The Gemba report found that the club could not survive in Melbourne without that (GC and ASD) funding.” (‘Roos a Gold Coast priority – Draft picks part of relocation lure’, The Age, 11/10/2007)

This is like putting two and two together and getting seven. The Gemba report, from what I understand, suggested that North could make a small $0.3 million profit from 2010 without selling home games or receiving ASD funding. However, this was under a best-case scenario model which Gemba noted as “a stretched goal (which) will be difficult to achieve”. While I’m sure there are shades of grey in how you can interpret the Gemba report (I haven’t seen the full version), it can be reasonably argued that Wilson’s statement is deceptive. She did not do this once, but twice:

“The independently funded Gemba report into the club’s future said the Kangaroos could not survive in Melbourne with their current Telstra Dome agreement and without extra AFL support.” (‘Roos draft allowances a no-go zone, say Pies’, The Age, 23/10/2007)

A subjective point presented as a definitive fact. This is pretty damning.

The Case Against

Beyond the examples cited above, all remaining evidence to support the conspiracy theory is subjective. Bold statements such as …

“But never have the Kangaroos had more to gain, never have they looked more vulnerable and never has an AFL second chance looked more attractive.” (‘Roos must accept the inevitable’, The Age, 2/12/2007)

… while potentially viewed as clear-cut evidence for the case, in truth it’s just her opinion, albeit sternly put.

Along these lines, GoldCoastTruth.org puts forward a few subjective arguments (cited as ‘persuasive tactics’) …

  1. ‘Argumentum ad nausem‘ (whereby she repeats the same story over and over and over again to the point where it is generally accepted by people who know no better) and
  2. ‘Appeals to fear’ (whereby she continually suggests that if North Melbourne don’t relocate, they will face financial disaster in Melbourne, and will lose ‘funding’ from the AFL and perish altogether)”

… both of which are pretty weak.

(1) The Gold Coast issue was easily the biggest story in the AFL since the tumultuous 1996 season (with the possible exception of the Wayne Carey-Kelli Stevens affair). To suggest Wilson was “argumentum ad nausem” for the benefit of the AFL is ridiculous – she was doing her job and covering a story of significant public interest.

(2) To suggest she was appealing to fear purely to peddle the AFL’s agenda is, again, ridiculous. North had real reason to fear passing up on the GC offer – there was (and still is) a genuine possibility that North would not remain financially viable as a Melbourne-based club. And there’s no guarantee the AFL will bail them out. This opinion was shared by many commentators, as well as the NMFC CEO at the time and members of North’s own Board. Hardly appealing to fear if it’s just reflecting the truth.

But weakest of all is the premise that Wilson risked her reputation and career in order to gain easy access to AFL scoops. I simply can’t see this working for her. We all saw how players ostericised Dylan Howard when he went a step too far, ultimately costing him his job. If Wilson was in cahoots with the AFL she was risking a similar fate. Was it just a case of not getting caught? I doubt it.

Conclusion

At the end of the day Caro’s pro-relocation position can be put down to PR. On one hand, you had the AFL with all its resourcing and arrogance pursuing its own agenda using traditional PR tactics of spin, leaks and more spin. The only organisation with the information to counter it was North.

But North didn’t have a PR strategy. With few resources and a divided Board, it couldn’t. In fact, the Board was so busy fighting among themselves that it would have been near impossible to devise any real PR strategy anyway. This left the administration looking reactionary and incompetent.

Caroline Wilson’s articles reflected this. North were portrayed as dithering battlers and the GC option looked tempting – not an unreasonable judgement to make at the time. In the PR battle, North was getting flogged. It wasn’t until James Brayshaw stepped up, unified the stay-in-Melbourne camp and began to utilise his media power that the pendulum started swinging the other way. For the first time, North’s PR was equal to the AFL’s, and the emotion of footy followers across the country did the rest. History shows JB ultimately won the war.

But there’s no question Wilson stuffed up. The misleading comments I cite earlier expose her swallowing the AFL’s bait. While they are small oversights they had huge ramifications; too big to ignore.

So ultimately, there’s no big conspiracy. Caro covered the GC story extensively, had a couple of Barrys along the way and pissed off some passionate fans in the process. Personally, I reckon everyone should get over it.

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What’s With All The Caro Bashing?

So Fairfax’s football editor, Caroline Wilson, has written another couple of articles about North. And it took the NMFC peeps on the BigFooty forums all of 5 minutes (literally) to start sticking the boots in.

It’s not something new. Caro has been copping it from all directions throughout her now substantial career reporting on the AFL. Frankly, I don’t get it, and I’m beginning to get pretty fucking sick of the personal attacks she cops. The footy media is full of shit journalists, but Caro isn’t one of them. The whole thing reaps of the sexism that footy has failed to shake-off, despite a relatively good track record (at least when you compare it to the other football codes).

The truth is Caroline Wilson can write, she has good contacts within the AFL, has a nose for a story, isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions and is yet to go to the gutter – all traits of a good, ethical journalist. Fans, footy personalities and colleagues alike take every opportunity to bag her. Some say she makes shit up under the guise of confident sources, yet they seem to know nothing about the confidentiality issues surrounding journalists’ sources. Some say she is too quick to stick the boots in, failing to recognise the measured justification for her opinions, and that it’s her job to provide them. Some criticise the headlines of her column – she doesn’t write them. Nearly everyone criticise her coz she’s ‘never played the game’ – fuck off! Football itself is probably the most straight-forward aspect of the AFL to analyse. But Caro, having never played it, doesn’t touch it. Administration, politics, personnel management, public relations and the myriad of other non-football issues are her bread and butter, and she does it as well as anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, I often disagree with Caro and regularly find her annoying. But there’s no way she deserves the shit she gets. Particularly when you compare her to the dreggs of society competing for her exclusives. Here’s a very brief dishonour roll:

  • Craig Hutchinson– Hutchy is a disgrace. By his own admission, Hutchy has no basis to provide comment on football itself, so, like Caro, is confined to behind-the-scenes stories. The only thing is, he has no ethics. Can by found going through the bins of footballers to break the next exclusive.
  • Dylan HowardSacked by Channel 7 after the medical records purchasing debacle, again, has no ethics. Who employed him afterwards? Hutchy. I rest my case.
  • Mike Sheehan – News Limited journo who forgot to learn how to write. I shudder at the thought of reading his work without an editor’s eye.
  • Patrick Smith– Writes uneducated columns for uneducated readers (ie. Sydney-siders). Appears to know more about the state of meat pies than football.
  • Scotty Palmer – He may have had something to contribute in 1975 (I doubt it, but I wasn’t around then so it’s a possibility) but certainly doesn’t now. No nose for news.
  • Sam Newman – If he stuck to talking about the game (ie. the only thing he’s qualified to comment on) he’d be top shelf. The problem is he does everything but.
  • Lou Richards – It’s not his fault he’s lost his marbles, he’s just old. Channel 9, do everyone a favour and give the man a rest.

And that’s the end of my story.

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