Thursday, April 28, 2016

60 Minutes in Lebanon

It is doubtful that Channel 9 really needs to conduct an investigation into how its crew came to be arrested in Lebanon. It was right in the middle of this story, in it up to their eyeballs, and they no doubt already know exactly what happened.

The "review" is not independent. The people doing the review are all connected with Channel 9. If there was a major bungle by a Government Department or a Bank, and the Department or the Bank simply conducted an internal review, 60 Minutes would scream "cover-up". The "review" may be simply an attempt to buy time and hope the public loses interest in this debacle.

There is evidence the Channel 9 network paid $69,000 directly to the personal company of Adam Whittington, the imprisoned head of Child Abduction Recovery International. News Corporation has reported that Channel 9 made two separate payments in this case totalling more than $115,000.

Given this, rather than buying time, Channel 9 should do three things. First it should do would it would demand of anyone else in a comparable situation – provide a full accounting to the public of exactly what it did, what money it has paid or promised and to whom, and which of its personnel decided on or approved the actions it carried out.

Second, it should change its ways in relation to chequebook journalism. Chequebook journalism is a slippery slope where media outlets risk losing their moral compass. You can end up like the UK paper "The News of the World" did in 2011, caught paying bribes to police officers to reveal information about cases.

If there's nothing wrong with chequebook journalism, let TV stations always reveal when they do a story and they have paid someone for their role in it, who they have paid, and the amount. Let's have the full story. Many stories are presented as being justified in the pursuit of openness and transparency and the public's right to know. It is therefore hypocritical for those paying for the stories to shy away from saying how much was paid, to whom, what it was paid for, and why it was paid.
Third, it should resolve never to pay money in order to create news, and certainly not to facilitate the commission of a crime. Journalists should report the story, not be the story. If you pay the Beaconsfield miners for their story after they are rescued that is one thing – it should be disclosed – but paying money to set up a story is another thing altogether. It runs counter to the ideals of journalism which should have ethical principles and truth telling at its core.

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