July 17, 2009 | Graham

Open interview with Paul Ramadge and The Age

Dear Paul,

Yesterday you published an article by Richard Baker about our decision not to
run an article submitted to us by Lee Rhiannon, a Greens MLC from NSW. The clear
implication of your article was that the decision was motivated by political
bias. This open interview is designed to give you an opportunity to put The
view of the story and matters surrounding it.

Before responding I suggest that you read not only Baker’s articles from

the 16th

the 15th
(this version on the SMH as missing from the Age), but the blog posts that I have made on the issue which you
can read



. You should also read the article that was submitted to us and which
appears to have been published in its entirety

on New Matilda.

As with the interview I did with Lee Rhiannon, I will pose the questions
below and post your responses as soon as I can after I receive them from you. I
think it would be reasonable to give you until midday Monday July 20, given the
time at which I have posted here and the length to which the questions run.

  1. After having read The Age’s articles and our three blog posts, do
    you, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Age believe that the board of The National Forum and the
    editors of On Line Opinion made a biased decision not to publish Lee
    Rhiannon’s article?
  2. What percentage of the article of the 15th was not primarily sourced from Lee Rhiannon’s
    piece or this

    2007 Age piece
  3. How is it acceptable to call the recycling of 2 year old news and a
    political party’s extended media release "investigative journalism"?
  4. Will the

    soon to be launched Fairfax The National Times
     be a
    direct competitor to On Line Opinion?
  5. Why would The Age promote publication of information
    provided to it on a website belonging to another media organisation?
  6. I note that many of the details in the full Rhiannon piece were omitted
    from The Age’s coverage of the 15th. Why?
  7. I understand from emails to us that The Age had its lawyers
    examine the story published on the 15th. What was their advice?
  8. The report of the 16th claims that the Rhiannon article was "Pulled shortly before
    publication yesterday". This is not true, it was never accepted for publication
    and the authors were informed at 1:45 p.m. the day before the proposed day of
    publication i.e. "the day before yesterday". What documentary evidence do you
    have to support your claim?
  9. The report of the 16th claims "The editor of On Line Opinion, Susan Prior, had
    agreed to post the article by NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon and academic Norman
    Thompson yesterday morning". What documentary evidence do you have to support
    this claim?
  10. The report of the 16th claims "The National Forum’s board is headed by…Graham Young…".
    evidence do you have to support this claim?
  11. Your reporter was told in the one telephone conversation that I had with
    him that Nicholas Gruen was the chairman of The National Forum’s board and
    that he was heading a federal government inquiry into government and the use
    of Web 2.0. How do you explain why this was not reported by your journalist?
  12. The article of the 16th carries this quote:

    "Failing to publish this article keeps
    the lid on an unflattering story about how Malcolm Turnbull conducts his
    fund-raising affairs," [Lee Rhiannon] said. "If our article was rejected on the basis
    it was poor quality I welcome that feedback. If On Line Opinion pulled the
    article because it doesn’t suit a particular political agenda, this is very
    worrying for media freedom in Australia."

    What is your explanation as to why these allegations were never put to me?
    How do you explain why the piece does not mention that Lee Rhiannon was the
    source of most of the information in the article but allows the reader to
    believe she is reacting to information that has just been revealed to her?

  13. The report of the 16th describes me as "former
    Queensland Liberal Party campaign chairman" . How do you justify this description
    as fair and accurate given that I was expelled last year by the Queensland
    Liberal Party because my journalism was frequently critical of aspects of
    their behaviour and that I am a well-recognised political commentator and
  14. The report of the 16th describes Greg Barns as "former Liberal adviser".
    How do you justify this description
    as fair and accurate
    given that Greg Barns was disendorsed by the Liberal Party as a candidates
    and subsequently joined the Australian Democrats and is a frequent critic of
    the Liberal Party?
  15. In its fourth paragraph the report  of the 16th mentions Greg Barns
    and me as members of the board and describes our past political leanings. It
    is only in the fourth last paragraph that it mentions other board
    members and neglects to mention any political leanings they might have.
    Please explain why this is not misleading.
  16. In its fifth paragraph the report says "On Line Opinion’s
    editorial advisory panel includes Mr Turnbull’s wife, Lucy Turnbull, former
    Queensland Liberal MP Kathy Sullivan and conservative former ABC chairwoman
    Dame Leonie Kramer." Why does the report neglect to mention the other
    members of the Editorial Advisory Panel, including Chair Brian Johns whose
    political leanings would be expected to be quite different to those cited?
    Please explain why omitting these details is not misleading.
  17. I note that the Chairman of Fairfax is a former treasurer of the
    Australian Liberal Party. Please explain why it is improper to have someone
    with a political association as a member of a board of a media organisation.
    How could you regard it as fair to impute political motives to a media
    organisation’s coverage on the basis of the political associations of one or
    more board members?
  18. How many of your journalists have been members of political parties? In
    the interests of transparency would you be prepared to require them to
    reveal any associations and list them and their past affiliations on The
    website? If not, please explain why political associations are
    significant when your journalists are reporting on the activities of rival
    media organisations.
  19. Will you publish corrections to the errors in the article of the 16th in
    The Age, giving them similar prominence to the original article?

I look forward to your response.




Graham Young
Founder and Chief Editor
On Line Opinion


Posted by Graham at 4:26 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I thought the story about Turnbull’s fundraising forum in the Herald was most informative. Then when I was doing my weekly read of New Matilda I saw the excellent article by Rhiannon and Thompson. Have sent it to all my friends who know reform of our donations’ law are crucial. And of course the Libs refuse to support this in the Senate.
    Only when the item came out on Crikey did I know about the Online Opinion issue. Graham Young should pull his head in. By posting all this now everyone is reading the second Age story. And a good one it is.
    I still don’t know why Young pulled Rhiannon’s great article. He gives a different reason in each paragraph.
    Good on you the Age reporter and editor. We need more stories about such issues.
    Since Young is so defensive I bet he doesn’t publish my post. So I’m sending to everyone I know who is opposed to such big money in our American type elections these days.

    Comment by David — July 18, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  2. Pay attention David. No-one cares about who reads the Greens story. Malcolm Turnbull raises money from rich people? Well, he’s unlikely to do it from poor people. And he’s good at it? I’d hope so.
    It’s all public domain stuff and no reason for OLO to devote its scarce resources to running it, especially as Rhiannon had already secured the Age to do it for her. And had New Matilda in reserve apparently.
    You won’t find a gotcha beat-up like this on OLO. We do op-eds. Next you’ll be insisting that BRW publishes serialised Romance novellas.
    You obviously fancy yourself as a publisher, and I’d be keen to help out by building the website for you. For a couple of grand we could do you a very nice WordPress site.

    Comment by Graham Young — July 18, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  3. Graham
    Interesting points and questions.
    For example I hadn’t thought about the National Times angle before.
    It’s interesting that the mainstream media are belatedly searching for a business model to address the democratisation of opinion that the blogosphere has produced.
    Since the MSM serve a particular master and have a particularly narrow view of the world that is going to be extremely difficult for them to do.
    After all what makes me buy the Age, or the Canberra Times or the Sydney Morning herald or the Fin? (The Financial review s slightly different in that it is the paper of the bourgeoisie.) Or the Australian?
    Why would I sign up online for the same tedious crap that passes for news and reporting,and especially analysis and opinion, in these newspapers?
    Indeed most of their opinion pieces are gossip dressed up s analysis. Who said what to whom nonsense.
    The dilemma for mainstream media like newspapers is that to democratise and allow discordant and dissident views contradicts and undermines the essence of its role – to create the conditions for,as Chomsky put it, the manufacture of consent. You can’t manufacture consent if you are publishing dissent. (Or even a wider range of views than the MSM currently do.)
    The Age’s nonsense attack on OLO just proves the point – the profit burghers from Fairfax (and News) are getting worried by the likes of OLO and Crikey.
    Let them respond by democratising their pages too.

    Comment by John Passant — July 19, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  4. Expect a lot more attacks from the Corporate Media of the Fairfax ilk,since people like myself stopped buying newspapers a long time ago.
    The internet is making people more aware and the Corportate community as a whole is coming under closer scrutiny.
    You cannot get a comment on the major media outlets with someone vetting it.So where is the democracy there?

    Comment by Arjay — July 19, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  5. Hi there,
    I agree David, OLO does display a right-wing bias as the pulling of the Greens Senator’s article attests. Interesting that Young has taken the Age’s criticism so personally.
    I find that often the Right attempt to portray themselves as completely free from bias so when something like this happens we see all sorts of reasons trotted out. Look at the hoax in Quadrant last year. Played up to the magazine’s bias, goes to print without vetting then when the hoax was revealed it was attributed to anything but Quadrants heavily skewed editorial policy. I think OLO is in the same position.

    Comment by Patrick B — July 20, 2009 @ 10:07 am

  6. I find Young’s response rather sad. But then he protests so much one wonders exactly what is his agenda.

    Comment by David — July 20, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

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