The Australian Press Corps – Our Heroes


One of the things I love most about elections, apart from the sausages, is the wonderful glow of pride at campaign time.

It’s at election time that I feel most proud to be a part of the wonderful Australian media, for it is at this time, this democratic Festival of Light, this Woodstock of the Westminster system, that the Fourth Estate is seen at its best and most noble. And though I am but a tiny cog in the enormous grandfather clock that is the Australian press, it is a privilege to be so. For we have seen over the past week just what heights of insight and analysis our journalists are capable of as they slice through the spin and the hypocrisy of political life like a sword slicing through a sheep.

For an example of what I mean, just look at this searing investigative exposé by News Ltd’s Lauren “Bernstein” Novak. In it she reveals the raw, unvarnished truth about the Opposition Leader: that he goes running sometimes. But of course, really great journalism is about more than simple facts – a good reporter always seeks to put those facts in the proper context: his daughter went running with him as well.

Now, for most people, this would be enough. A strong story about a man and his daughter running? Job done. Public interest served. Electorate informed. But Novak, being the little terrier that she is, didn’t just want this to be a good story: she wanted it to be a great story. So she added that crucial human touch, that little bit of pathos that makes what could be a cold, indifferent news report into a living, breathing work of art that the common man or woman can relate to. And so Novak told us that as well as Tony Abbott running, and Tony Abbott’s daughter running, she – Novak herself – also ran. What’s more, Novak found it hard to keep up. Plus, Novak once hurt her foot.

Do you see what I mean about being proud to be a journalist? Lauren Novak has shown us just what is possible in this oft-cynical world. She’s telling us not only the stories we need to know, but the stories behind the stories we need to know, and doing it in a way that grips and compels all the way through, from the bit where they start running, to the bit where they keep running, to the bit where they run some more, to the bit where they aren’t running anymore. It’s a tour de force.

Not that that’s any surprise. Working for News, Novak doubtless learnt from the best, Gemma Jones.

Jones is a legend in the local media, having won myriad awards for brilliant features like her groundbreaking “You Pay For Illegals’ Plasmas” and her poignant “You Pay For Criminals’ Caviar”. But it’s at election time that Jones, like any good newshound, truly shines, and courageously speaks truth to power, as in this piece, where she brings to light the government’s secret shame: that Kevin Rudd’s son once smoked a cigar. Here we see starkly illustrated the burning need in any democratic nation for a free and robust press: it’s only through the hard work of truth-seekers such as Gemma Jones that we can learn of such outrageous abuses of power by prime ministers' sons.

It’s really just a matter of responsible citizenship: without Gemma Jones’s work, we would be casting our votes blind, without any idea of the two-faced duplicity of Kevin Rudd, his shameless willingness to implement one policy, while allowing his adult son to engage in a legal activity with a vague connection to that policy sometime before the policy was enacted. At least now we will know EXACTLY what we’re in for should we vote Labor.

This is just a taste of the sterling work that our journalists are putting each and every day on behalf of us all. Whether it’s Mark Latham’s Hot Or Not ratings, Katy Perry’s cutting-edge assessments of Coalition policy, or the hard-hitting Meme of the Day gallery, our brave press gallery has us covered for in-depth and relevant reportage designed to enrich our freedoms and make our political system both more accountable and more inclusive.

You simply can’t beat thorough, intelligent, evidence-based journalism. It makes me proud, but it also makes me aspire to someday be as great a journo as Gemma Jones or Lauren Novak. As I mentioned, I am currently but a tiny cog, but I feel I could be so much more. As such, I am making this column something of a job application. Knowing Rupert Murdoch never misses an article of mine, this seems a good opportunity for me to pitch a few story ideas and try to get in on the ground floor of the campaign-bus rollercoaster.

How about: “Joe Hockey: a shadow treasurer and his socks”? No? Perhaps not sensational enough. Perhaps, “Hockey’s socks revealed to be on Labor payroll”?

What about an undercover investigation into what brand of washing powder Anthony Albanese’s mother uses? Or an exclusive interview with Jenny Macklin’s dry cleaner – what is she trying to hide? I do want to be balanced, so obviously the interview with Macklin’s dry cleaner will be accompanied by one with Sophie Mirabella’s hairdresser.

I don’t just want to be a muckraker. It’s important, as a journalist, that I focus on policy. Maybe I could write a list of the top 10 pensioners who will die as a result of Kevin Rudd’s tax hikes? Or I could whip up a graph showing which of the major parties’ education policies will lead to the greatest increase in paedophile activity? And maybe one illustrating the correlation between Greens senators and hepatitis.

I think all of these ideas will really add value to the election discourse. And if not, I’ve got Photoshop and a great idea for a picture of Tanya Plibersek having sex with a weasel. Yes, it might shock, but the people have a right to know these things.

Hopefully the next you hear from me I’ll be in Canberra, putting the fire to the feet of our elected representatives and demanding answers about Julie Bishop’s earrings; but till then, remember to say a prayer of thanks for our army of journalists: they’re our best defence against descending into a pathetic rabble of narrow-minded cretins obsessing over idiotic minutiae at the expense of meaningful engagement with genuine issues.

And that would be really bad.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.