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How to stay on the drip – Canberra Times Style.

By johnboy - 27 November 2008 57

CityNew’s Ian Meikle has been kind enough to copy us in on his recent correspondence with Andrew Barr’s media adviser Paul Kinderman.

For reasons at this time unknown Mr Kinderman forwarded an example of how the Canberra Times’ John Thistleton makes sure he gets the quotes he’s after:

    From: John Thistleton [mailto: [Address redacted]]
    Sent: Wednesday, 26 November 2008 2:23 PM
    To: Kindermann, Paul
    Subject: Prof Cox article

    Paul –
    – following is a draft article – it will be cut down a bit. I would like to make room from a comment from Andrew Barr or Neil Savery.
    As you said there are excellent examples of intensifying the city centre – any other planning developments would be welcome for the article.

    If I can get a response by 2.30pm tomorrow that would be appreciated.


    [Draft article follows]

Ian’s reply to this went as follows:

    from: Ian Meikle [Address redacted]
    to: “Kindermann, Paul” [Address redacted]
    date: Thu, Nov 27, 2008 at 10:59 AM
    subject: Re: Prof Cox article

    Dear Paul,

    I acknowledge your desire to keep correspndence between yourself and a “Canberra Times” journalist as private as you can. More than that, on reading it, I can see precisely why you want to keep it private.

    But you have done our profession a great service by letting the local media family see this this chummy email.

    I’m sure any journalist exposed as cheerfully submitting his/her work before publication to a Government pr flak would be extremely embarrassed, especially coming from the city’s senior media outlet. And it would seem at odds with professional, impartial journalistic practice from a newspaper that has built the integrity of its masthead and trust of its readership on those very qualities. So why has he done it?

    Mr Thistleton’s article reads extremely well and I do hope it meets your approval – and you are able to embroider your Minister’s comments into the story to meet the author’s deadline; though I am perplexed why the writer wasn’t moved to seek comment directly from the Minister and Mr Savery than burden you with the chore.

    However, the email does the raise the question about journalistic ethics in Canberra and I was wondering if you would be gracious enough to clarify if this is the new Government’s method of media manipulation (no quotes unless we see the story)? Or better still, share the names of other journalists voluntarily or otherwise submitting material prior to publication for your comment with our now-inner group?

    Best regards,

    Ian Meikle

Thoughts dear readers?

UPDATED: It seems even within the Canberra Times this is not an approved procedure. The following went out last night:

    From: Peter Fray
    To: [redacted – all CT journalists]
    Date: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 7:03:41 PM
    Subject: reporters please

    Don’t send your stories to sources to be checked.

    Sure, check facts with them over the phone or in person.

    But do not give them the story.

    This gives them the chance to edit the story, often to make it ‘softer’ or more to their point of view.

    This flies in the face of your job — and the essence of journalism.


    Peter Fray


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57 Responses to
How to stay on the drip – Canberra Times Style.
Gungahlin Al 12:58 pm 27 Nov 08

And only achievable if Monash Drive was built…
Which I’m sure no-one wants.

Cheers Ant.

ant 12:34 pm 27 Nov 08

Good sensible comments, Gunghalin Al! I’m glad someone is saying it. Stop packing Civic with more and more stuff. Get centres of retail, services, admin and employment out in to the satellite areas of Canberra. We have shocking problems with vast swarms of cars crossing the city every day. People from Tuggeranong working in inner north/belconnen, people in Gunghalin heading south, people from eastern NSW heading everywhere…

it’s crazy.

Gungahlin Al 12:22 pm 27 Nov 08

Paul made a mistake of sending his reply to his media release list. He attempted a recall, but that only works if you use Outlook. We don’t.

Of more concern to me was the content of the draft article, citing some bizarre ideas from Professor Philip Cox (not to be confused with Dr Kevin Cox of GCC) encouraging the ACT Government to ignore democracy and to wind back consultation – as if Cox failed to pick up any messages from the recent ACT election…

As it’s all become public now, I guess it can’t hurt further to share my response to Canberra Times on Prof Cox’s ideas:

Hello John

No doubt you are aware of the error where the draft article went all around from Minister Barr’s office.

I have to say that I am quite concerned about what Prof Cox is proposing, and his views on the merits of consultation are woeful and ill-informed.

We don’t live in a dictatorship and if he prefers the “we know best” approach of government, then he should go live in one himself. Some good things can come of proper consultation from the foundation stages, and there are some substantial examples of this in the work that GCC has been doing with ACTPLA – which you could confirm with Neil Savery. Where consultation goes off the rails is where it starts too late in a process and all players see the outcomes as forgone conclusions – perhaps this is the style of consultation Prof Cox is more familiar with??

What’s the old saying? “No matter what the problems of democracy are, the solution is always more democracy.”

It is also a concern that he is promoting the idea of further intensification of Civic’s role, to the detriment of Canberra’s satellite cities – it clearly shows that he has utterly failed to grasp the intent of WBG’s plan for Canberra, and the unique benefits for traffic and road infrastructure that such a concept can deliver if properly implemented.

He also seems to not get it when it comes to the realities of greenhouse impacts from commuting and the benefits of being able to work locally.
On sprawl – endless sprawl is certainly not good. But the satellite cities overcome that by creating multiple nodes of concentration. If there’s sprawl, it’s because the very previous government agencies Prof Cox crows about have neglected to follow the plan properly. And what exactly is the space problem in Canberra anyway?? The only limitation I can see is an artificial line on a map called the ACT border.

The ACT Government should pay very little regard to Prof Cox’s views.

I would be happy to comment further on these concerns, and you can reach me on the mobile number below.

johnboy 12:19 pm 27 Nov 08

To be fair they’re much improved in recent times.

ant 12:15 pm 27 Nov 08

It’s a pretty amusing email from Meikle; it’d be nice to see a bit more of this attitude in the City News, which tends to be frothy advertorial.

poptop 12:02 pm 27 Nov 08

Gak! Too many ellipses too few ns – *journalistic

poptop 12:00 pm 27 Nov 08

Resisting . . . jibe . . . about . . . jouralistic . . . ethics.

Resisting . . .

johnboy 11:56 am 27 Nov 08

poptop said :

I imagine the e-mail denying approval of content would be the published article.

Probably not, if I’d agreed to back and forth it then I’d keep negotiations discrete.

poptop 11:51 am 27 Nov 08

I imagine the e-mail denying approval of content would be the published article.

rosebud 11:49 am 27 Nov 08

What, so the Minster’s adviser forwarded on a copy of his correspondence with the Canberra Times to the City News? Bizarre. My guess is that the adviser forgot to delete the messages below the email he was sending to the CityNews. Either than or he mis-sent it. A big mistake I am sure all of us have done at least once. But it never cost me my reputation or job, just a few ‘do’hs. tutututut. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the shite storm bound to follow.

Skidbladnir 11:48 am 27 Nov 08

Okay, what are the circumstances surrounding, and how did Ian get a copy of John Thistleon’s email?

CityNews in reference to the Crimes:
…a newspaper that has built the integrity of its masthead…

Pot to kettle, be advised that you may be dark.

johnboy 11:48 am 27 Nov 08

Sure, just have to send in our copy for prior approval….

In other roles I have sent in advance copy, but AFTER I’ve got the quotes…, and when the person getting the copy was the subject of the article.

poptop 11:45 am 27 Nov 08

Now you know the drill Johnboy, we will expect great things on RiotACT.

It would, surely, be deeply inequitable and WRONG for the ACT Ministers and ACT Government to offer this service to only one media outlet.

johnboy 11:41 am 27 Nov 08

I’d been wondering for a while how Thistleton got his fantastic scoops time and time again.

poptop 11:39 am 27 Nov 08

Leaving aside the obvious oxymoronic opportunities, I am surprised at how unsurprised I am.

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