MUNGO MacCALLUM. Those who work for Murdoch know exactly what is expected of them.

It was in 1975 that the Murdoch bias finally pushed the dictatorial mogul’s journalists jacked up, and went on strike.  

In the wake of the sacking of Gough Whitlam’s government the election was bound to be bitter and fraught, but the blatant dishonesty of the coverage in the Murdoch media, and especially its flagship masthead, The Australian, had abandoned any pretence of objectivity.

Every story had to be anti-Labor propaganda – no ifs, no buts, no frills or qualifications, unvarnished polemic, denigration and abuse. Remind you of anything?

The strikers knew there would be consequences and costs: some later resigned, others were demoted or sidelined. And although the market for journalists was less constrained than it is today, it was no picnic. Rupert’s loyalists, of course, doubled down: I was assured by one that the strikers were communists to a man.

But while it was undoubtedly true that some, but not all, were Labor supporters, this was not the point; they accepted that the proprietor had a right to set the paper’s overall stance, and had put up with it for years. But in 1975 any idea of news gathering was subordinated to the demands of destroying the hated Whitlam – who had snubbed Murdoch’s demands for personal advantage – as the first and only priority. the strike was not about taking sides, but about journalistic integrity.

Now, 44 years later, any fire left in the bellies of News Corps journalists has been extinguished – those who work for Murdoch know exactly what is expected of them and slavishly perform. Objectivity is not an optional extra, although some feign to retain the odd ethic.

Hence, when the Sydney Daily Telegraph delivered its hit job on Bill Shorten and his dead mother last week, it was taken up with gusto by the Brisbane Courier-Mail, but not the Melbourne Herald-Sun. This was claimed by Andrew Bolt, one of Murdoch’s most zealous propagandists, as proof of the organisation’s pluralism – and as soon as he had drawn breath he reverted to his real work of bad-mouthing Shorten.

And it certainly seemed likely that the Hun’s restraint had little to do with ethics and a lot to do with tactics: in Victoria, the hatchet job may have been seen as counter-productive. Meanwhile, back on the flagship, The Australian put Shorten’s response to the story on page 6, highlighting the Terror’s defence: this was legitimate because Shorten, in his account of his mother’s struggles to obtain employment and ultimately a law degree, had not added that she had eventually secured “a lucrative career in the bar.” In fact she hadn’t: she had graduated, but failed to get worthwhile briefs because of her age.

All of this was on the public record in Shorten’s own words, but the Terror pretended it was some sort of deceitful dodge. No self-respecting journalist would have written the piece. But then, no self-respecting journalists would have constantly demeaned themselves by following the relentlessly and ruthlessly partisan line demanded of them. Strike be buggered – back to the cesspool. It’s warmer and cosier there.

But it may not be forever; given the now open warfare between Shorten and Murdoch, there are now two head-to-head contests to be decided on Saturday. And if ScoMo goes down, whatever remaining credibility and influence News Corps retained will also be shredded.

Which will not be good news for the hired guns. It might have been smarter to strike while the iron was still hot; Murdoch has no time for losers.

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5 Responses to MUNGO MacCALLUM. Those who work for Murdoch know exactly what is expected of them.

  1. Geoff Andrews says:

    Mungo, at least the “story” about Bill’s Mum provided some relief to the boredom of this election. I remember your describing the 2016 (?) election as watching fullbacks passing the ball backward & forward to each other. As Tism would say, “BFW”.

  2. Richard Ure says:

    The (previously) sage advice of “don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel” does not carry the weight it once did. Children of school age can now produce, and with the assistance of Youtube distribute video, and Facebook, Apple’s News App on iOS and MacOS devices and the Google News app on portable devices generally have widened the scope for news consumers to be informed like never before. In the 1920s Rupert’s father managed to prevent the ABC broadcasting news before 7:50 pm and from using any news source apart from print. Now the ABC’s news output is prodigious and unrestricted.

    While sources of information and opinion continue to proliferate and find audiences, Rupert’s quest for relevance and power continue to decline while he insists on monetising his content by paywalls and thanks to the loyal servants who toil at his news desks

  3. Sandra Hey says:

    Excellent article, I remember the Whitlam dismissal as a young person living in Western Australia at the time. The Murdoch media stable of relentless character assassination of Bill Shorten over the last 6 years will fall a long way short of the desired outcome for Rupert Murdoch personally. The famous Margaret Thatcher remark “ This Lady is not for Turning” neither is Bill Shorten who personal integrity is based on the very old principle of Eastern Philosophy “To exclude one’s eye” Bill Shortens Book “For the Common Good” says a lot about his character and decency which has the hallmarks of what is required to be a great Prime Minister.

  4. Niall McLaren says:

    And those who buy and read Murdoch’s toe rags know exactly what they are buying and reading, that’s why they buy it.

  5. David Allison says:

    Thanks for another good article – at least, if Murdoch goes down on Saturday he will be comforted knowing he’ll be able to reduce the odd hundred mil subsidising the hired guns.

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