An Open Letter to Michelle Grattan

MichelleGrattanDear 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 contrastwas 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 thisthisthisthisthisthis 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.

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13 Comments on “An Open Letter to Michelle Grattan”

  1. Robert Roestenburg says:

    You are spot on Victoria! Keep up this incisive analysis! What passes as journalism these days is a thinly vaneered irrelevance trying to pass itself off as insightful, but failing to recognise it’s ingrained bias on the subject. Keeping the Government to account is a euphemism the LNP have adopted to damage the government at all times, irrespective of the positive/negative aspects of the policies involved. When the Government is seen as the ‘enemy’ to quote Amanda Vanstone, any debate in the media will have to be seen through the prism of political propaganda whose aim is to win power at all cost. If only policies were debated, with possible improvements suggested in the criticism raised, the debate in the media might indicate a good comparison between the two main political parties and their vision of the future for this country!

  2. Greame says:

    When the Whitlam Labor government tried to buy back the farm for the Australian people with money borrowed from the Middle East dark forces came down on them from all angles. Even a govener general was corrupted into betraying the nation. The current Labor government is building a national broadband network that promises to serve the Australian people well for decades to come but now Murdoch’s world is raining down on them from all angles. Even the ABC has been corrupted into betraying their charter and the nation.

  3. tex says:

    Victoria Your piece is spot on this woman has past her use by date and should slink off to retirement before she is further exposed for her lack of journalistic integrity. I also find more intolerable is that we have system of selecting members to speak from the press gallery having to be approved by a group that been involved in a conspiracy to bring down a government twice and these are the very same people who control the information we get from the press gallery. How fraudulent is that the ABC fall into the same category with the IPA being the preferred commentators how can this be when all we ask is for policy analysis and what we get is talking heads he said she said and they class this as political discussion. Insiders is an absolute failure should be removed as with news 24 we watching a management system in the ABC that should be rectified by the removal of a politically appointed managing director that has interfered with rational running of a publicly funded organisation. we have on channel one worms exiting an apple and used in time filling slots because of diversion of funds going to prop up a news programs that has no integrity and the journalists are so lightweight and mostly wet behind the ears when it comes to making sense of what they espousing.

  4. Robert Henry says:

    Spot on indeed, I used to have The Age delivered and I was an avid reader, as I thought it was insightful, well researched reporting, and I used to read all Michelle’s articles. I stopped delivery long ago when Michelle and some of he colleagues stopped reporting and started expressing their opinions, and now only buy The Age of a Thursday for the Green Guide, but I rarely give Michelle’s writing more than a quick glance, as I’ve read it all before. I expect balanced reporting, I don’t want everything to agree with my thoughts, I want to be persuaded by good journalism, so I can say “Gee, never thought of that angle.” At the moment I am in utter dismay at the standard of journalism in this country, especially the print medium. Is it any wonder that newspapers are failing. Fulfill your obligations to your readers, and maybe your sales will increase, but while you have writers like Michelle, I don’t like your chances.

  5. Roger says:

    Excellent Victoria. Michelle Grattan’s reports are so predictable. The subject matter is irrelevant – she repeats the same tired, lazy, mostly unjustified, poorly researched drivel (Abbott-good, Gillard-very bad) every time. I am puzzled why Margo Kingston speaks highly of her?

    • John says:

      “First we skip over your articles because we know we have already read 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.” How true, it is exactly what I am doing. so it shouldn’t be long before I skip the conversation entirely.

      • hilderombout says:

        Indeed John, i am doing the same. I see an article by Michelle and on finding one i don’t bother to look at the rest the Conversation might have on offer. Such a shame that they appointed her the main political correspondent. It certainly brought down the standard of the Conversation. Thank you VIctoria for your letter. I so agree with you.

  6. Kevie says:

    I totally agree, I am so fed up with the same old News Ltd, Fairfax rants against the PM and the Labor party that I cancelled my delivery of The West Australian and The Sunday Times. I am not listening to the radio anymore because they just repeat what is written in the papers. Silence is golden

  7. bla says:

    After reading M. Grattan’s first words for the Conversation,I cancelled my subscription. I had been reading some of the articles, but found shallowness there and had been thinking of cancelling, but had kept up the subscription in the hope of reading something worthwhile sometime. M. Grattan forced my hand. The end was already in sight but the appointment of such a poor analyst isn’t going to help.

  8. jocelyn gardiner says:

    Omg AT LAST – somebody has nailed it in one. Victoria, your words are sweet. I loved reading it, feel I am no longer in the wilderness…….. sorry for the genuine aspiring journalists just breaking their neck to do some good work…..objectively and creatively, when the likes of MG are rusted on, …….. Why doesnt she give one of them a go.

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