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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Heather Brooke in Sydney

Today's session at the Sydney Writers Festival with Richard Aedy facilitating a discussion with Heather Brooke from the UK and veteran journalist Alex Mitchell about journalism in the digital age was terrific. Brooke enjoyed it, tweeting it was great. You can catch an edited version on Radio National's Media Report tomorrow Friday at 5.30pm or anytime thereafter. 

Austen Tayshus-Manly Daily
Mitchell's story about donning the budgie smugglers to run dead in a swimming race with Idi Amin in order to get an interview is hilarious. I presume someone explained "budgie smugglers" to the non-plussed Brooke afterwards.

Brooke's later session with Waleed Aly posing the questions, was less successful. Aly seemed keener for an intellectual arm-wrestle than a conversation about the advertised privacy related topics. All a bit of a struggle.

At both sessions Brooke while welcoming the advent of WikiLeaks, poured a bucket on Julian Assange, on the basis of her dealings with him-difficult, devious, dictatorial, reckless- someone who fails to live up to the standards he expects of others. This Guardian review- a paper incidentially that Brooke thinks has to go broke because of its "free" on-line business model-of The Revolution will be Digitised, gives the flavour.

Brooke acknowledged some aspects of what WikiLeaks does might constitute journalism but that it is best described as a source/publisher. Mitchell, an old school, shoe leather, contact book journo who thinks there is much more to the craft than sitting at a computer screen or regurgitating what is put on the desk, didn't express a view but it was pretty clear that what Assange does is a million miles from journalism as Mitchell practiced it.

No one seemed to have the heart to mention that the MEAA gave Assange a Media Alliance union card, "confirming that he is a member in good standing with the Australian journalists." And that Wikileaks received the Most outstanding contribution to journalism award
at last year's Walkleys. 


  1. Anonymous10:25 am

    Brooke and Assange have a lot in common - overinflated sense of their own importance and achievements, an apparent belief that nobody before their arrival had done anything of worth, and a dangerous tendency to use hyperbole to the point of inaccuracy. The first thing out of her mouth in this recent Guardian piece about FOI in the UK, "there are no public records or legitimate ways to access important information, given that the FOI Act doesn't work in a timely way" is simply wrong.

    She's the lazy media's go-to person for juicy quotes, but is a massive liability for those that are serious about opening up government.

  2. Quite a character makeover there. She handled herself pretty well at these events, give and take a bit of hyperbole. I would have welcomed the opportunity to get closer than a seat in the bleachers at these two sessions. Unfortunately three emails in recent weeks suggesting contact while she is in town, and suggesting a meet up with some of our home grown FOI types went unanswered.

    She has two more gigs at the festival that I won't be able to get to.