Dear Michelle Grattan
I’m writing to congratulate you on your new job as Professorial Fellow at University of Canberra and your other new job – Associate Editor (Politics) and Chief Political Correspondent at The Conversation.
I couldn’t help but notice that your article on your new platform this week, Gillard and Baillieu offer stark contrast, was no different from what you have been writing since 2010. In fact, it could have been an article cut and paste from things you have already said, and have been saying constantly for the past two years. I just wanted to let you know that I, as a member of the ‘Mr and Mrs Average’ community that you mention in this article (which I assume means anyone outside of the Canberra Press Gallery), am sick to death of your campaign to fuel the fires of ‘leadership tension’ within the government. I am sick of your chosen ‘narrative’ that Gillard is lacking in credibility, that she is desperate, and that she is a failed Prime Minister, because frankly, your view of reality, and that of the electorate, are so far removed from each other that they must exist in separate universes.
It was interesting that when you left The Age, you offered this advice:
“Diversity matters because we need many voices – as many as possible commenting on politics and interpreting politics and I think what we’re seeing at the moment is too much concentration of voices, frankly.”
Really? Perhaps you don’t visit any websites except those owned by Fairfax, News Ltd and the ABC, so perhaps your opinion that ‘diversity’ is lacking is understandable. In fact, I couldn’t agree with you more that diversity does matter but I find it fairly hilarious that you’re the one saying we need more of it. You – the person who has written the same thing on the same subject almost every week now for two years, who is clearly obsessed with the Kevin Rudd leadership spill and so clearly despises the Prime Minister and anything her government does – are calling for more diversity. Just a hint Michelle – there is plenty of diversity out there. Been on Twitter lately? Looked at any independent news sites and blogs? Instead of offering the opposite of diversity with your broken record of meaningless drivel about how Rudd is going to challenge at any moment and that Gillard’s government is a failure, you should be urging yourself to be more diverse. How about some scrutiny of Tony Abbott and his potential policies? How about a look at the successes of the Gillard government, which would have to include some policy analysis? Ever heard of policy? How about some diversity in your tired old narrative Michelle?
What really annoys me about you Michelle is that you should know better. You’ve been in the Press Gallery for long enough to have seen it all. You know that Gillard beat Rudd in the 2012 Labor leadership ballot by 40 votes. You also know that Abbott only won the leadership of the Liberal Party by 1 vote. So which leader is in a more precarious situation? This week, when the Victorian Liberal Party ‘assassinated’ their first term Premier, I almost had to assume your Twitter account had been hacked, or that you were parodying yourself with this Tweet:
“Yes, it’s a long bow but reckon this could add to the federal destabilization”.
Maybe it’s time we called you ‘long bow’ Grattan. I think that works.
As Political Editor of The Age, you had a very responsible position. Being a journalist is an important job. Yes, it’s becoming less and less important as media consumers get our news from many different sources. However, you still had the responsibility to watch the political scene closely and to tell us, in a fair and balanced way, what is going on. But while you were focused on un-named sources from the Labor party, who you claimed supported Rudd, and while you obsessed over the imminent Labor leadership spill that never happened, with articles like this, this, this, and this, you were missing some very important things that media consumers should have been reading about. Policy is one of them. Costings of policies is another. Abbott’s relationship with News Ltd and Gina Rinehart is yet another. And how about Ashbygate? You probably thought you were above reporting a conspiracy to bring down a government, but the irony is, you were working on the very same thing! And this wasn’t your job Michelle. It’s wasn’t your job to campaign. It wasn’t your job to tell the Prime Minister to resign. Your job was to watch, analyse and report. People trusted you to do this in a balanced way. You abused this trust every time you turned on your Fairfax computer.
Now that you are at The Conversation, you have an even greater responsibility. According to your new organisation’s mission, you should be providing:
“Access to independent, high-quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism…”
I don’t think any of these adjectives apply to your work as I have seen it Michelle. Your repetition about Gillard’s ‘failures’ are unfair, untrue and unbalanced.
None of this history bodes well for your association with The Conversation. You’re bringing to it the same old ‘Gillard is bad, Abbott is good’ narrative. Apart from the lack of balance, the repetition drives away readers. First we skip over your articles because we know we have already read them before. Then we start skipping over the website altogether. This is sad because The Conversation ought to be a place where we can find independent analysis. But now you’re damaging the brand.
You’ll no doubt write me off as some rusted-on Laborite who just doesn’t want to hear the truth. But you don’t have the monopoly of truth. We know there are people in the Labor party trying to undermine Gillard, but which political party isn’t this true of? And how is this constant speculation helpful for genuine political debate? Even if I were a right-winger, you’d still be repetitive, and not giving us policy substance that is crucial to political reporting. We want to know about policy, and you never deliver this. By ruining The Conversation, you are decreasing the very diversity which you said yourself is lacking in political reporting. So although I’m congratulating you on your new job, I’m not optimistic about what this career move will deliver to media consumers. Perhaps it’s time you fell on your sword.