Sunday, January 13, 2013

FEIJOA Awards, 2012

Good journalists are troublemakers. They ask questions that others feel too uncomfortable to ask. They ignore the spin and seek inspiration from something other than the prefabricated fodder that forms the foundation of 90% of the PR masquerading as news that you see in the media most days.

With that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to announce the second annual F.E.I.J.O.A  awards (The Failed Estate International Journalism Awards), sponsored by ________ (insert non-compromising and appropriate commercial enterprise here).

It's really not that hard to stand out as a decent journalist these days. You refrain from buying into the Narrative Du Jour (promoted intensely by the more highly paid spin doctors of the warring ideological clans) and you give the public valuable insights that might help them understand issues that could affect them and steer them away from the self-serving  noise.

These journalists haven't forgotten that they are representing the interests of the general audience, not the in-crowd of would-be agenda setters of which most in the media seek the approval.

Of course, I don't pretend that this is an exhaustive list. It merely represents my view of some of the journalism that has added some needed understanding and insight this past year. And it's what we need more of - journalism that ignores today's talking points and looks at what's really at stake.

Unholy Silence - Geoff Thompson and Mary Ann Jolley, Four Corners, ABC: The best journalism highlights a discrepancy between the proclaimed virtues of public institutions and the actual practices. This clear-eyed and fearless investigation of systematic child abuse within the Catholic Church fits that definition and led to a Royal Commission being called. It is interesting to speculate whether this program would have been made under an Abbott/Pell government.

Ashbygate, David Donovan, Independent Australia: The mainstream commercial media, particularly the News Ltd tabloids, got very excited when former Liberal Party staffer James Ashby accused LNP turncoat and parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper of sexual harassment. This was going to bring down the government was the line, which is perhaps why the journos needed to exercise just an ounce of  scepticism about the motives of Ashby and others involved. Donovan's IA did what most others failed to do and questioned the motives of those involved. Sure enough, it was a stitch-up.

Abbott Interview - Leigh Sales, 730, ABC: For months, Tony Abbott was allowed to get away with blue murder by the media with his claims about the carbon tax. It was going to drive up the cost of living, he said, wipe towns off the map, destroy the economy. Which is why it was such a relief to see Leigh Sales put Abbott on the spot over his claims that BHP Billiton was blaming the carbon tax for the the mothballing of the Olympic Dam expansion. Turns out he hadn't read the all.

A Fair Share of the Boom - Stan Correy, Background Briefing ABC Radio: One bugbear I have with much policy journalism these days is that reporters spend their time reporting what politicians say about public issues without getting out of Canberra and finding out the facts for themselves. And this is what Stan Correy did in explaining why the mining industry was so opposed to a profits-based tax. This took him to Africa and  an analysis of the tension between 'globalisation' and resource nationalism.

Bernard Keane, Crikey - Australia's best media analyst of public policy. From his Crikey vantage point, Bernard can afford to ignore the daily tennis match. What's more with his background in public policy, he manages to get into the politics from the level of what's at stake for the public and beyond the egos of the individuals and the party machines.  If you want an insight into politics without having to wade through the predictable he-said-she-said templates, read Keane.

Ross Gittins, SMH - The quaint notion that governments 'manage' the economy dies hard in Australia. There is simply too much at stake for media companies and polling organisations and the punditocracy for people to be told the truth - that the RBA and Treasury run the macro economy and then only up to a point. The international cycle has a much bigger influence.  Ross Gittins is a truth teller in financial media. One of the few. We'll need him even more in an election year.

(Once again, this list is not intended to be a comprehensive one. There are many more worthy names in the comments from readers below. I would also tip a hat to Mark Colvin, Laura Tingle, George Megalogenis, Wendy Carlisle, Hugh Riminton, Paul Bongiorno, Peter Martin and Stephen Long). 


  1. Good list. The pieces I liked this year were -
    Wendy Carlisle's Background Briefing on the tasering of Robert Laudisio.
    Sad, outraging stuff.

    Ian Davis' piece on suffering motor-neuron disease, technically not journalism but a first-person kind of reflection. I thought it reflected well on the Age for accepting such a challenging piece.

    Finally John Garnaut is a terrific asset for Fairfax. He doesn't file often but his ebook on Bo Xilai last year, published by Penguin, is fantastic. An endangered species at FF.

  2. Can't go passed Paul McGeough for excellent foreign correspondent work over many decades.

    And Peter Wicks for the brilliant series called Jacksonville that exposed the terrible lies and distortions around the Craig Thomson non story.

  3. I would add Jess Irving for making economics readable for the non economist, and George Mega. Pity he took a package.

  4. Please add Andrew Elder to the list ( His analytical insights, alongside his political party experience, put together with his knack for stringing words together make his articles a must read.

    I wish we had mainstream journalists of this calibre...

  5. Agree with your choices and those added by commentators above. I also think Ben Eltham and Victoria Rollinson are doing some good work.

    I know you can't but I would also nominate your good self - essential reading in the new media environment.

  6. Agreed. Would definitely add Peter Wicks Jacksonville exposé to this list. The continuing silence from MSM is scary.

  7. If it weren't for David Donovan and his excellent team of writers on Independent Australia it would be extremely depressing to have to rely on MSM for proper and factual research and reporting. That MSM maintains a silence on many of the issues brought to us by the writers of Independent Australia and Crikey is a national disgrace.

  8. I would give an hoonourable mention to John Faine for pulling Abbott up on his reference to asylum seekers being illegal.

  9. I find myself agreeing with all the above and your selections as well. I would add Peter Wicks of Independent Australia as others have already done as this, along with the Ashby disgrace, is something which should be front and centre of an honest media (sick laughter).

    Finally, the bloggers already mentioned along with at least half a dozen others not named here but can be found as links on Andrew Elder's blog and last but not least, your good self. Thank you for your posts, I look forward to them.

  10. Ditto all of the above - honourable mentions should also go to: and

    1. loving LoonPond so far, a new must read for mine.
      Thanks for the link!

  11. Thanks for this - I find it useful to see it all collected on one page. I would add my praise for Ross Gittins, who is consistently clear-headed. Some of the others have had flashes of higher quality showing in sharp relief to their quotidien crowd-following MSM performances.

  12. just saw your post on poll bludger
    i only read it these days dont post/

    i noticed you think labor will win if abbott stays/

    so what do you think if abbott doesnt stay
    that sentance realy worried me

  13. Another vote here for Peter Wicks and the Jacksonville exposé.

  14. A brief reminder late in the year of how good Margo Kingston is and how much we miss her. Margo - your country needs you.

  15. Mike Seccombe at The Global Mail is also worth a mention.

  16. Not all good journalists are troublemakers.! I would add my warm approbation for Ross Gittins for his job well done in journalism.