Jane Hutcheon, Michele Nayman, Niki Savva deal with the age old question of the impartial journalist each day at work. At this Saturday morning session at the 2011 Byron Bay Writers’ Festival, they explore objectivity in the news world. The session was chaired by Alex Easton from The Northern Star.
Jane Hutcheon is a senior ABC journalist and presenter of One Plus One on ABC News 24, and is the author of From Rice to Riches. Michele Nayman is a UK-based writer and author of Jetlag among others. She has worked as a journalist with The Age, The National Times and The Guardian. Niki Savva was one of the most senior correspondents in the Canberra Press Gallery and is the author of So Greek: Confessions of a Conservative Leftie.
Listen to highlights from Should journalists be impartial?
Highlights edited by Southern Cross University media student Justin Fenwick.
You’ve heard of course of the slow food movement. Well, I’ve launched the slow blogging movement. There were some very funny people at Byron Bay Writers Festival, some of whom are known as comedians such as the brilliant John Doyle (doesn’t everyone love him?), Lily Bragge, and then there are the people who tell very funny stories, often against themselves. A.J Mackinnon is one of them. He told of how he swam across a Chinese river to enter China and was arrested for not having a visa. How can this be funny? Well, because he is Australian he was asked by the guards if he had a pet kangaroo, and when he said he didn’t, the guard roared at him, “Why you not have a pet kangaroo?” It’s a difficult question to answer, said Mackinnon.
If there was a sartorial prize being awarded at the festival Jack Marx would win hands down. Marx said he gets really annoyed that if he has a reputation at all it’s as someone who has no ethics when it comes to writing about people. It really “pisses me off as people don’t know what I withhold. They only know what i publish … I am the keeper of so many secrets, and those people know the secrets I’ve kept for them.” “Those people are not going to come up in my defence, and say yes I told Jack I had an affair.” Marx see ethics with regard to journalism just the same as courtesy. “All I’ve got to do is ask myself what is the right thing to do and you always get the right answer.” He thinks the journalist code of ethics is nonsense as written by Canberra. He sees the current rules for ‘off the record’ as a joke and only there to protect the journalist. Marx prefers to look at every story on its merit and described this process in a somewhat surprising way: “If someone has irrigated the desert and saved millions of people yet they they’ve sodomised a donkey – yes that’s an interesting opening – but it’s not necessary for the story.”
Marx conduct himself by making the rules as he goes and by a personal code. “If someone waves the code of ethics in front of me I tell them to wipe their arse with it.”
Someone else who makes people smile and was a hit with the festival crowds again was Sam Cutler. He lives in a bus and parked it just by the green room, and hung out there with a few musos and writers, and just like I fancy he would have parked and hung out a thousand times before while tour managing with the Rolling Stones, and Grateful Dead…
Slow blogging continues in the next installment….