Correcting Fairfax gossip column

by | Jun 19, 2017 | Despatch

At least journalists at The Australian called before they conducted their hatchet jobs the other day. Fairfax Media gossip columnist Joe Aston didn’t bother to pick up the phone for today’s knife job on yours truly.

Failing to call the subject of your insults before publishing is not just cowardice, it’s a matter of basic journalistic protocol. Journalists are required to make the phone call in order to allow their subjects to respond – and get the facts straight.

How wrong they are. Joe Aston from the Australian Financial Review claimed I “attended” Trinity Grammar School, where my father Rod West was once headmaster and Alex Malley once a student.

In fact, I didn’t attend Trinity at all. And the first time I met Alex Malley was at my father’s funeral last year.

A detailed rebuttal of Joe’s petty claims would be a waste of time. His entire coverage of the Alex Malley saga is tainted by the fact that Nine Network canned his TV show, Financial Review Sunday, two years ago and replaced it with In Conversation with Alex Malley.

Joe has been on a rampage of malice ever since. The Financial Review, whose show was jettisoned because it was not commercially viable, has published roughly 100 negative stories since then about Malley.

Before then, its coverage of CPA and Malley was positive. Since then, it has been relentlessly negative and in recent weeks the Murdoch press and the ABC have piled in as well.

The purpose of Joe’s story is to paint me as a stooge for Alex Malley because of this piece:

Witch hunt: The Fin’s crusade to destroy CPA boss Alex Malley

The purpose of the piece is hardly to defend Alex Malley. As pointed out, the CPA saga is a failure of disclosure, and Malley’s pay is over the top, as written.

The real point of the story, again as clearly written, is that there are far greater corporate abuses in this country, stories of far greater public import, which need to be investigated but are studiously avoided by the mainstream media.

Further to Joe’s “stooge thesis”, it should be noted that as a peak professional body for accountants CPA is very close to the Big Four accounting firms: PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY.

For the past five years this reporter has been the number one critic of the Big Four in this country and is in favour of their break up. You won’t hear a bad word about the Big Four in the AFR. It’s all “executive style” puff-pieces and roundtables.

Oligarchs of the Treasure Islands

The AFR has never disclosed its commercial relationships with CPA’s rival Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand. And where is the coverage of the chief executives of other peak bodies such as the Minerals Council of Australia, the Business Council of Australia, the Property Council, the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA)?

The answer to this question is that the coverage of these organisations is there in the finance press all the time … in the guise of shuffled words from their endless stream of press releases. PR fluff.

The mainstream finance press has lost it. While the CPA has been running big surpluses under Alex Malley, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review have both been making losses. They are beholden to the big end of town and hardly try any more, except when there is a second-tier scalp to be had.

It is lily-livered and it is a sad abrogation of the duty of journalists and editors to hold power to account.

Then there is the hypocrisy. While flagellating Malley week-in week-out for being paid too much and failing to disclose his pay, Joe’s own boss, Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood, was secretly gifted millions in share options.

Fairfax: the bid and the bosses’ secret pay


Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.

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