Wednesday, October 10, 2012

News Judgement Fail

Global media:



Local media:


One principle in journalism is that the closer you are to a story, the less likely you are to see it. It's why wire services rotate people around the world. Journalists who work for Reuters, Bloomberg and AP have a frame of reference wider than the average local reporter.

In Canberra, press gallery members can stick around for years covering the same patch. It's no surprise, then, so many of them - like Peter Hartcher above - have such lousy news judgement.

In this case, a passionate and thrilling speech by a prime minister about sexism and the low-level tactics of a political opposition leader beyond cynicism attracted world attention. But our gallery are too clever to see that.

They instead took the bait fed to them by the spin doctors on the other side of politics, that there was some moral equivalence between the private text messages sent by the speaker (when he was still a member of the opposition BTW) and the overwhelming climate of personal denigration and misogyny created by the Opposition leader and the tabloid flying monkeys that cheer him on.

The public can see this, obviously the global media can see it. But a press gallery that spends more time getting "briefed" by spinners and reading each other's copy completely misses the story. Again.

All the more reason they have become an irrelevance, a bunch of scribbling note-takers and thumb-sucking drones with the attention spans of cordial-fuelled toddlers and the horizons of lab rats.

See The New Yorker: Julia Gillard's Misogyny Speech

69 comments:

  1. Oh So very true Mr D. I could not have imagined that the gallery would come up with a more simplistic take on yesterday's events than Hartcher's piece. I am constantly and consistently amazed by how badly served Australians are by the political journalism in this country.

    No thought, no insight no nuance - what a joke.

    Latika Bourke had a similarly juvenile reaction to the PM's speech yesterday: asking on Twitter whether anyone thought that Abbott's scribbling during the speech was sexist and mysoginistic as the PM had said. One example after a litany of other examples

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  2. The journos are so locked into their preferred regime change narrative that they can't see a story when it smacks them in the face. All the more reason to ignore them.

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    1. And I think they want it simply so there's something exciting to report on, and show everyone how they're insiders and saw it coming and blah blah blah.

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  3. Hear bloody hear...they wouldn't get a job on any reputable media outlet anywhere else in the civilised world. Pack of bone idle, slack arse, booze swigging incompetents

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  4. You are being very charitable saying they "missed it". I thought their reasons for ignoring it more sinister than that.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Valburge, the fact is many political journos love a fight more than they love the truth. If it's a choice between keeping the brawl going and taking the reader aside to say "this doesn't mean anything", they'll choose the former.

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  7. Yes, valburge, I agree.

    http://thisnessofathat.blogspot.com.au/

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  8. Frankly the likes of Latika Bourke is a great example of the childish, juvenile unprofessional clowns who masquerade as journalists. The abc has become a grooming ground for Liberal wannabes, eager to get jobs with LNP MP's. They write their trash in the hope it will ensure a Coalition Govt next year and so open up employment rewards for their brazen biased scribble and utterances

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    1. I disagree - the people in the abc are not biased - they are incompetent. Low pay, massive journalism spread and not enough resources.

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  9. dj, I think Latika is a pretty straight reporter actually and does a good job. My problem is with the poohbahs paid 10 times what she earns and who think they are players in their own right. I think Latika, by contrast, sees herself merely as a reporter.

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    1. Cant agree Mr D. The great percentage of her tweets are Liberal cut and paste, her interviews are frankly pathetic, the ABC does no training of any consequence any more. During a stint I did with the ABC everyone who went on air, be they journalist, announcer, all received good training. That is almost non existant. With Ms Bourke, many many of her peers rattle on like machines. Much of it ill informed, badly researched and responding to the Gospel according to former Liberal staffer M Scott.
      Radio National now seems to be the remaining stronghold of talent in the ABC. Fran Kelly excepted.

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    2. She seems a classic commercial radio quick grabs journo. Perfect for Twitter.

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    3. I agree with your comment on Latika. I find her to be generally straight forward, and does well in providing streaming coverage for political events.

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    4. I agree MrD, I think one reason people get shitty with Latika's style is because she seems to tweet more from the Opp, but I think that's because they pump out a lot of sound bites.

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    5. I can find Latika's uncritical reporting a bit annoying sometimes, but I have to remind myself that what she's doing is straight reporting - saying what happened and what was said for those who aren't there or can't watch. That's a valuable service and she does well on twitter to present just the facts. I wish she would stick to just doing that because when she attempts analysis, she comes across as attempting to imitate the rest of the gallery, and not even well.

      I agree with Amos that the opposition is better at cultivating journos and pumping stuff out for them. I know Labor has a country to run while the Libs can afford do two lame media stunts per day, but Labor could learn a little bit from the Libs about getting the message out.

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  10. To be fair, Anthony Sharwood at The Punch had a very different take on it.

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    1. And the poor bloke got flayed for it when you look at the majority of the comments. I guess when you write for an organisation where nearly every person is either Ford or Holden you should expect that. I got the impression from a lot of the comments on his article that the vast majority had not actually even viewed the exchange, just took the footnotes supplied by the papers :(

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  11. This story has just boomerangged from a trip around the world and exposed just how hopeless our local (old) media is. I personally found that speech absolutely electrifying. I showed my wife and she was blown away too. She shared it with her friends, who were already sharing it far and wide anyway. And now we see the same reaction around the world. And only now is it making headlines here, because the news sites realise they have been blindsided yet again. Hopefully their days are numbered as the rest of us decide what is and what is not newsworthy.

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  12. Ramon, I think Sharwood is a Punch online person, not a fully fledged press gallery member. I may be wrong.

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    1. The failure here was two-fold:

      1. The press gallery entirely missed the story.

      2. Editors back at home didn't call them on it and make them write it anyway.

      On point 2, Slipper's resignation happened fairly late and the old news instinct to put the newest thing first took over. It was clearly wrong in this particular instance.

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  13. I marvel that after (presumably) years of education and years of experience and years of continual employment (denoting lifestyle security) they do behave like scared, incompetant crawlers!
    Jaycee.

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  14. he says he expects moe of GIllard

    gee that annoys me re its PM
    but that aside so do i..The pm was amazing yesterday and should of done it earlier and i hope she is able to do more strong speeches like this.
    Abbott is nothing but a ship in the night our Pm Julia Gillard will go down in history,
    i am so proud of her.
    thanks to new media for getting all this out there.
    we need to keep on doing this day in day out, till there is a new opp, leader.
    we just need to point out we are sick of parliment being used for SSO ect day in day out, id like to see legistlation that there can only be one of those once a week.
    i wish all australians would watch qt time they would soon see the difference.

    so if you have a twitter account keep up your good work and fight the good fight
    i have a feeling people want to return to a gentle time of the past not in so much as media but civility.
    my son tells me he how he feels aust, is dog eat dog.
    and says that its seems to have come about more in the last few years.

    and he is a young man who has a wide view on life.

    i think time is running out for print media.
    i wonder if they junos in this country have thought about it and what they will do.

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  15. This is what I posted on Crikey with regards this issue.
    "Gee, the australian MSM barracking for the Liberal opposition, that’s unusual. The issue is about misogynism, abusive language and the growing vitriolic & personal attacks that occupies the social and political spaces of our society, not the alledged hypocricy of the women’s movement and the left. I suggest people look at the international take on PM Gillard’s put down of Abbott."

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  16. My take on Australian politicial journalism is that it thrives on "tension". It will diligently search for anything (latest polls, two politicians from the same party disagreeing on something, something said in jest or in error or in the heat of the moment) and then use that to leverage a story about how this points to more tension.

    Tension about leadership is a perennial favourite, mainly because it involves less thinking than tension about policy (eg. unpicking the deregulation of the wheat market and identifying winners and losers is just TOO HARD). The budget outcome is another favourite - we have tension about the outcome, but no real analysis of whether any particular outcome is good or bad in the current circumstances.

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  17. Agreed, aslsw. The focus is on the conflict as an end in itself and who is winning the fight day to day rather than on ideas. Some say that's because the battle of ideas is exhausted. I don't think so. I think much of the gallery is still reporting politics as if the big disagreement is over economics (where there is really overwhelming consensus). But the major divisions now are social and cultural. Neither side of politics is entirely comfortable with fighting on those grounds and neither is the press gallery comfortable or qualified to report it that way.

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  18. It appears only blogs and the o/s press see and write about what I witnessed yesterday. The PM rightly tore strips off Abbott with example after example of his appalling behaviour towards her as PM. However our homegrown journalists are so committed to Abbott as the next PM that they look but do not see or report. Now for history we have in Hansard all those examples of that bully Abbott. So forget it Margie you may have wanted the "record set straight about your guy " but now the PM has seen that history has the facts.

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    1. it is very easy to state that someone is sexist or a misogynist, but we were taught that if you make statements, you should have the facts to back them up - someone standing next to a sign the says 'Ditch the Witch' proves nothing

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    2. Jan...were you asleep under a rock that day? We all saw and heard the mob clamour...were you deaf..were you blind....are you now kidding?
      jaycee.

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    3. Jan there have been many violent and sexist and misogynist comments from the COALition side of politics recently.
      Here are just a few of them from Tony Abbott only and recently.
      The PM addressed some of them, she did not have time to address all.
      You can try to deny one, but not all.

      - “Mr. Abbott observed: “Gillard won’t lie down and die ….”
      - Tony Abbott” Julia Gillard has a “target on her forehead”.
      - Mr. Abbott : “Are you suggesting to me that when it comes from Julia, ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘No’?”
      - Tony Abbott : that Gillard ''make an honest woman of herself'
      - “The impeccably dressed Bishop smiles awkwardly as Abbott throws an arm around her shoulders, squeezes a few times, and tells the media mob before them, "She's a loyal girl". [SMH Dec 09]
      -“Tony Abbott when he was thanking Sarah Murdoch at his book launch. He turned to Lachlan and thanked him for allowing Sarah to launch the book.”


      fred

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  19. The perpetual braying for blood by our fifth estate is tiresome. Simply repeating the opposition's view of events and calling that analysis is unforgivable.

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  20. I read that Hartcher piece last night, it's such a colossal load of sh*t. Obviously threatened by a discourse that is breaking outside the gizzard-augury the press gallery likes to indulge in, Hartcher desperately tries to pull it back into the horse-race trash that is all he's capable of.

    We expected more of the Prime Minister? Please. I certainly did, generally, but in this context she has gone above and beyond, and defending the right of someone who was by all accounts a very good speaker from having to resign - as a result of an unresolved civil matter (that stinks more than a fishmonger's drainpipes, I might add) - is an ornate display of Victorian prudishness, and more hollow than a Faberge egg.

    I loved, especially, how Gillard becomes the Ur-Woman, representing all Australian femininity, whilst Abbott represents... all men? What?

    I agree (in some respects) that the Speaker's office has been ill-used by both parties (what's new?), but comparing Slipper's private texts (for those that don't know the sexists comments were 1. calling Sophie Mirabella an "ignorant botch" and 2. a reference to vaginas as "shell-less mussels". This is out of hundreds of private messages, btw, not to condone it of course) to the institutionalised, public, widespread use and advocacy of the most degenerate sexist slurs against the prime minister is like comparing a waterslide to a frigging tsunami.

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  21. I watched the ABC recording of the PM's speech. I don't need to read MSM pundits' opinions. I like my news spin-free!

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  22. Robin DisheartenedOctober 10, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    Brilliant piece. However I am beginning to loose all hope that mainstream media will ever catch up. Fancy Sunrise on 7 having Alan Jones in for an independent opinion on the PMs amazing take down. We just want the truth reported minus spin from any side.

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  23. Awesome article! I thought I was in the twilight zone when I woke up this morning. All we talked about last night was the slap that Abbott got, yet was a non-issue or worse, a fail for the PM in the papers? Great explanation as to why this is the case, I was actually thinking it was editors setting the tone trying to cosy up to who they think they new government will be?

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    1. not cosying up to who they think will be.... they're trying to BE the kingmakers, it's how they'll be more popular and illusorily credible next time. they're about 30 years behind the times, murdoch's been there done that and such anti-democracy is rightfully redundant.

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  24. Terrific piece, the MSM in Oz has lost it. We're not dependent on journalists acting as gate keepers of the news and framing and forming the debate. We can see it on You Tube and make our own minds up. The old media model is dead, they no longer have control of the relese of the news, they have to react to what is already out there.

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  25. That's OK, I'm sure Sheehan has insightful things to say on the whole issue, right?
    http://m.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/gillard-reveals-true-nature-in-playing-gender-card-20121010-27cnq.html

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  26. The Conversation site explains another insight ' Blokey culture means sexism still rife in Australian newsrooms' Maybe what we are seeing from male journos like Hartcher is the example of what happens when women spoke out.

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  27. Where's the "Completely agree, you hit the nail squarely on the head" button?

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  28. It was a terrible speech; the content revolved around having a go at a bloke seen as but not proven to be a misogynist. Her blows were weak, her passion barely visible, her voice giving rise to a suspicion of tears. Not from anger either. I've seen lesser pollies deliver less inspiring content with more venom. To make this clear, I analysed from the point of view of someone with no sides, rather a person with twenty five plus years of offering, observing and analysing vocal, body language and written content. She resisted from really ripping Abbott a new one as they were and are, to a point, good mates.It also says something about her previous deliveries that this one is seen as a moment worth commenting on.

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    1. If you don't get it, you don't get it.

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    2. Dear DC..I have, as someone with as much experience as yourself surely MUST have, witnessed the demolition of a boor by a woman with just a silent withering stare. You must have been looking and listening at another parliament!
      jaycee.

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  29. Well written Mr D, a fitting tribute to a magnificent speech by our [and I mean 'our' in this instance] PM and fitting [actually a trifle soft and generous I thought] condemnation of our [sic] media.
    Really that international headline says it all doesn't it?


    fred

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  30. From the Sheehan piece: "Julia Gillard came out snarling."
    "the Prime Minister wasted no timing in using misdirection and personal abuse."
    "She even invoked the name of dead father:"
    "who, unlike the Prime Minister, has raised three daughters?"
    "Why has she methodically deployed the politics of personal abuse?"

    You..what...I'm...huh? Is this guy for real? I mean, does he have any clue how far on the wrong side of history he is?

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  31. Meanwhile the New Yorker is asking "what can Obama learn from the PM's speech?"

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  32. you often see pollies from either side talking during a speech, scribbling, sleeping and generally looking bored - are they all sexist, and all the males misogynistic (the females can't be) and if a female does the things as above is it okay because she's a female

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    1. Not really the substantive part of the issue there. Scribbling during a speech could mean any number of things. As for the general charge of misogyny, hmm, doubt if he truly hates women. But he is guilty of sexism.

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  33. Agree totally Mr D, but - with a couple of honourable exceptions - the Press Gallery has ever been thus. The herd mentality has existed at least since the Hawke era, possible earlier. Come to think of it, most of the faces in the Gallery date from the Hawke era, so it's no wonder.

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  34. The local media knows the full context of this ongoing smear campaign. Global media is just looking for a headline/story.

    Gillard took question time to a new low with her smear attacks, no longer satisfied in letting her female front bench do it for her. A sneering person losing control of their temper is not a good look for a prime minister. And the frankly frightening thing is that the new speaker just sat there and let it happen, no muting, no order, bald faced personal attacks over and over again with no interruption. The level of bias and lack of discipline on display was breathtaking.

    And the pretext for this unrestrained diatribe? Hypocritically defending a lowlife grub who subsequently resigned anyway.

    A sad day for parliament all around.

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    1. A smear attack Chris?

      I believe you will find that every example Gillard raised of Abbott's apalling conduct is on the public record. So what were the false charges exactly?

      I don't believe the PM could ruin Abbott's reputation any further either given he has done a first class job of that himself (with a little help from his mates of course).

      However, I totally agree with you about the level of bias and lack of discipline shown - the PM really highlighted Abbott's continued and unrelenting bias against women didn't she? Continued and sustained attacks over a long period.

      What I also find interesting is that Abbott has been very good friends with the grubby lowlife you speak of for many, many years. He does seem to have several questionable mates and mentors doesn't he? They are all clearly expendable for political purposes though. At least Slipper did the right thing and resigned.

      The PM was making the very fine point, repeatedly I thought, that Tony Abbott can hardly be lecturing anyone else about sexism when he clearly does not understand the term himself. She just gave him examples of his prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination so he could better understand the problem he has.

      You saw a sneering out of control PM and I saw a a person giving Tony Abbott (and hopefully a few other like minded individuals) a lesson that he clearly missed out on in his formative years. He may thank her one day.

      And while my temper is firmly in check I apologise if my sneer is showing. I am so glad that looks don't matter so much in this medium.

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    2. Ooh Chris! Who's a biased boy, then?

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    3. Chris, seriously? Are you referring to the low-life grub who was a member of the Liberal Party for *two decades*? The low-life grub who was still a member of said party when he was forced to pay back $20,000 in entitlements? The low-life grub whose candidacy was accepted (despite rumours of misconduct and proven misuse of funds) by said party in 2010, and who are therefore responsible for him being in Parliament in the first place? The low-life grub who was still a member of said party when he made the offensive texts? The low-life grub who was protected and defended by Tony Abbott until he became speaker? Oh yes, that low-life grub.

      I didn't hear the PM defending a low-life grub, I heard her defending due process. If you are ever unfortunate enough to find yourself as a defendant (in court or otherwise), I hope others will defend due process for you.

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  35. Chris..mabey it's a case of the foreign media seeing the forest rather than the trees. It's not so much the flippant remark thrown across the despatch box in joust and jest, but rather the nuance of the insult...after all, there is several depths of meaning to calling someone an "ol' b*stard"....both of endearment or insult. As for the "low grub"comment, ; sure, we know some details of his lifestyle....but would you like to tell us here some of yours so we can judge your character?
    jaycee.

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  36. My sixteen year old daughter loves Big Brother, Minecraft and watching Julia take Abbot down repeatedly on YouTube!!

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  37. Spot on as usual Mr D.

    Of course, the advantage for the local media is they get to fan the controversy, which of course is their product.

    How soon before this story morphs into the (old) media clamoring for Malcolm Turnball's return?

    Help create the controversy, fan the flames, cover the game of politics (not the substance) and triumph in the hordes of willing advertisers.

    Which bit of the above is failing I wonder.

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  38. Radio National Breakfast - I switched on breathlessly...in my mind Julia had soared. I wanted it confirmed, my elation shared.

    Michelle Gratton was trotted out, dispirited as usual. Surely this would put a burr under her saddle. Mare to filly. But neigh! Ms Gratton shied, her usual list to the right. No applause for Julia's performance.

    Conceding a win for our fabulous chestnut is like pulling teeth, long long teeth.. The Age's hack, and the rest of the old herd are truly knackered.

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    1. This morning Michelle finally completed her metamorphosis into a spokesperson for the Opposition.

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    2. This morning Michelle finally completed her metamorphosis into a spokesperson for the Opposition.

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  39. Hartcher is as pompous as Paul Kelly.
    John C

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    1. (the comment box is missing from my page so I'll have to usereply)

      Also check out the use of this story by the new Mixed Media news site Storyful.com as an example of the usefulness of Social Media
      http://blog.storyful.com/2012/10/10/storyful-tips-and-tools-facebook/.

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  40. Grattan went into bat again for Abbott on RN this morning. "I think Julia Gillard went too far calling Tony Abbott a misogynist", she hacked out, barely hiding her contempt and hatred of the PM. This decrepit, aged, well past her used by date relic. She is a shocking public image for all journalists, many of whom must cringe at the sight and sound of her. Someone in Fairfax should have the guts to point her to the door, clutching a suitable gift of remembrance of better days.

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  41. DJ, I am as anti-Grattan as you are. But if you use ageism and sexism* to argue for her sacking, then you are part of the problem.


    *Yes, you didn't mention her gender, but there are thousands of political commentators around the world as old or older than Grattan, so to imply she's too old to comment is applying a different standard to her which fits the popular notion that womens youth and fuckability, or lack of, has any bearing on their professional work.

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  42. Gah, I shouldn't have singled DJ out - rank ageism is rife in the entire thread. Might I remind you all that people like Mssrs Elder, Mr Denmore and Dunlop are all old enough to be grandparents (although of course I don't know whether they are), and they're still out there kicking butt. So really, enough of the ageism already. Can't find anything to criticise about Grattan except her age? That's pretty lazy.

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    1. Indeed, Helen, particularly as there's her competence at her job to be going on with.

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  43. Yep I'm a 53-year-old bloke.,not a grandad, but old enough to be one. Married with two teens. Radio National listener. Rugby union fan and with friends across the political spectrum. Not exactly an archetypal social media agitator

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  44. "Tabloid flying monkeys"! Love it!

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