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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

News Corp fires back over press council ruling criticising ‘offensive’ Kamala Harris cartoon

Johannes Leak cartoon caused ‘substantial offence and prejudice’. Plus: the mystery of the missing Sky News videos

The press watchdog has ruled that Johannes Leak’s “little brown girl” cartoon of Kamala Harrispublished in the Australian last year, has breached its standards by causing substantial offence and prejudice without a sufficient public interest justification.

Leak’s editor-in-chief, Chris Dore, is not happy about the ruling and has devoted Friday’s editorial to his defence.

“The Australian Press Council considered the prejudice to women and particularly women of colour which the cartoon contributes to is substantial and that it offended a wide range of people, in particular women,” the APC ruling, published in Friday’s Australian, said.

The cartoon depicted Biden giving a speech congratulating Harris on being the vice-presidential candidate and saying “It’s time to heal a nation divided by racism” followed by “So I’ll hand you over to this little brown girl while I go for a lie down”.

Dore called on his staff to rally around Leak after Labor MPs Andrew Leigh, Mark Dreyfus and Andrew Giles, former prime minister Kevin Rudd and many journalists said the cartoon was offensive and racist.

The Murdoch broadsheet has always insisted the intention of the cartoon was to ridicule then US presidential candidate Biden’s “identity politics” but it had been misconstrued by rival media outlets.

Johannes is the son of the late Bill Leak, who was accused of racism for a 2016 cartoon of a drunk Aboriginal father who had forgotten his own son’s name.

Dore said in the editorial that the council has “allowed itself to be used as arbiter in a cultural debate involving issues of race, gender and privilege that are not its place to decide” and has again rallied around Johannes Leak.

“As an institution that claims to care about hurt feelings, the APC should reflect on the real impact of its decision,” the Oz editorial said. “This will be to invite social media vilification of a professional cartoonist who was doing his job to the highest standard and in the finest traditions of his craft.”

Abetz queries Milligan funding

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz has asked the auditor general to “thoroughly examine” the ABC’s decision to pay Andrew Laming $79,000 plus legal costs on behalf of Four Corners reporter Louise Milligan.

The ABC agreed to cough up last week for a series of tweets in which Milligan suggested the federal Liberal MP had taken a photo of a woman “under her skirt”. The tweets came in the wake of accusations that Laming took a photo of the woman while she was bent over, exposing her underwear at the top of denim shorts in 2019.

Queensland police cleared Laming, determining there was “no evidence to indicate a criminal offence”. Laming denied taking a photo under a woman’s skirt, claiming it was a “completely dignified” picture of a woman in her workplace, “kneeling in an awkward position, and filling a fridge with an impossible amount of stock, which clearly wasn’t going to fit in the fridge”.

Now the auditor general says it is considering a request to investigate the ABC for the payment of legal costs for one of its employees in a private defamation proceeding.

“It will be recalled that this case has excited a lot of public interest and discussion,” Abetz wrote to the audit office.

“Probing by your office as to the appropriateness and legal foundation for such a purposing of taxpayer funds to the ABC is warranted in all the circumstances.”

When Abetz says the case has excited a lot of discussion, it certainly did at the Australian. The coverage of Milligan, and the Laming case in particular, has been relentless. On top of stories in the media section of the paper, business commentator Terry McCrann has wondered why Milligan hadn’t been sacked yet and legal affairs writer Chris Merritt has called on the government to “impose a statutory ban that prevents the ABC from acting as a litigation financier for favoured employees”.

After Dark goes dark on Twitter

We couldn’t help but notice Sky News Australia was unusually quiet on Twitter this week. The broadcaster appears to have taken a break from posting dozens of Sky After Dark videos from the likes of Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Paul Murray. The channel’s Twitter feed is largely devoted to straight news at the moment. Could it be a coincidence that they are lying low in the lead-up to the Senate inquiry into the YouTube ban, which has been postponed due to a lockdown in the ACT? How does it relate to the deletion of 31 Sky After Dark videos?

Although Jones, Rita Panahi and Rowan Dean were invited to give evidence it is unlikely Jones will be able to make it. The 80-year-old former shock jock announced on Wednesday’s show he would be off for two weeks to undergo a knee reconstruction because he can barely walk. His program will be hosted by Panahi. A spokesperson did not comment on the change in the Twitter feed but told Weekly Beast: “Alan Jones is on leave while he recuperates from major surgery”.

TikTok’s time has come

Just like news organisations including the Washington Post, BBC Radio 1 and NBC News, Guardian Australia has a popular TikTok account presenting news to a younger audience in an accessible way.

In the midst of the latest Covid outbreak in Sydney, even NSW Health has started broadcasting the 11am press conference live on TikTok.

This week Guardian Australia reporter Matilda Boseley’s explainer on Afghanistan went viral – 4.5m views– after it was shared widely in the US.Advertisement

None other than the Post’s “TikTok Guy” Dave Jorgensen, who has literally written a book on the subject, gave Boseley a shout-out on Twitter and the views clocked up.

But not everyone was on board. As US whistleblower Edward Snowden pointed out, some people were mocking Guardian Australia for using the platform for serious subjects like the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

“The style of the video clashes terribly with its extremely serious subject matter,” one critic said. “People falling down from the plane and women rights going to waste should be taken more seriously, tbh,” said another.

AFR’s pub test

The Australian Financial Review’s 70th birthday celebrations have given readers an insight into the culture of the financial daily and the antics of five of its former and current editors. Drinking was once the bedrock of the paper, according to editor Paul Bailey’s interview with Alan Kohler, Greg Hywood, Colleen Ryan and Michael StutchburyHywood, who rose up the ranks to chief executive of Fairfax Media before it was sold to Nine, said on his first day on the job in 1976 he was taken to the pub and encouraged to drink all day until he got “goat faced”.

“It was a drinking culture, and it was a fun culture, but it was also a deadly serious culture given what we were doing,” Hywood said.

Editor-in-chief Stutchbury, who started as an industrial relations reporter and armed with an economics degree, said when he became editor in 2011 he “wanted to make the masthead probably more of a business thing, more pro-business”.

“It doesn’t mean by any means that we’re the mouthpiece of business, but we basically assumed that business is a good thing, it puts food on the table, it pays the taxes,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re soft. If you’re a Rio Tinto or AMP over the past year, you wouldn’t feel like we’ve been easy on you. But I did make a conscious decision to make it more of a pro-business paper.”

But Stutch, as he is widely known, says the days of the editor as benevolent dictator is over. “Now it’s harder to control,” he says. “The audience in a way has more power, if you like.”

Texas or Kabul?

The ABC has apologised for broadcasting a fake video of Kabul airport in its 7pm news bulletins on the east coast. The footage was described as people rushing into Hamid Karzai airport, when in fact it was from a football stadium in Texas.

“There was a high volume of fake videos circulating on social media purporting to be showing scenes in Kabul and at the airport,” the ABC correction said. “The ABC has a rigorous process for verifying footage and, on this occasion, that process failed when the ABC used three seconds of vision that purported to show people rushing into Hamid Karzai airport, when in fact it was from a football stadium in Texas.

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Playground antics

Weekly Beast readers are well aware of Oz media writer Sophie Elsworth’s role as a regular critic of Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and lockdowns in general so we had to bring you news of her latest run-in.

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