(Ray Hadley & 2GB colleague Ben Fordham who's setting a pace Ray can't keep up with)
Ben Fordham deserves our thanks and congratulations for his sensitive and victim-focused coverage of Kathy Sherriff's allegation she was raped as a 16 year old child - "Top QC urges police to reopen Bill Shorten investigation"
Ben took the time to listen to Kathy and to take her seriously. That's precisely what we're told to do in #MeToo and other campaigns.
Ben revisited the history of Kathy's complaint and brought all the relevant details to his audience. He was smart enough to realise that Kathy continues to suffer from the consequences of the attack - and that inaction by authorities exacerbates her suffering. Ben's concern for her seemed to me to be his primary motivation in choosing to report on the matter.
But Fordham also balanced the political reality and the rights of the accused man. He reiterated that the man is innocent until proven guilty, and he spoke in a way that wasn't politically inflammatory. The balancing of accuser and accused's rights in Fordham's quite lengthy and comprehensive report reflected real maturity and intelligence on his part.
And Fordham had more - he had new and highly newsworthy developments and he secured an interview with a central figure in the unfolding story, the former head of Australia's National Crime Authority Peter Faris QC.
Queen's Counsel or "Silk"'s opinions are costly and usually worth listening to, particularly if the QC specialises in the area of the law that's in issue. Faris QC practiced in crime and led the nation's highest criminal investigation and prosecution agency - his opinion when he chooses to render it on contentious criminal matters is news. Fordham had the news sense to appreciate that - and the contacts/network to secure the only interview Faris has given on this topic.
Fordham brought us the who, what, why and where about new developments and materially changed circumstances since the last time we heard publicly about these allegations back in 2014. He told us why it's newsworthy and why it matters today.
Compare and contrast Fordham's scholarship, research and methodical presentation with the dismissive, slipshod, misleading, lazy and contemptuous report delivered by his colleague Ray Hadley just before the 10AM news today.
Hadley told us that a large number of his listeners had sent in emails asking that Hadley report on developments in this case.
In radio, it pays to listen to the audience. That's what talkback is all about. When your audience asks you to investigate an issue and to bring them a report on it - well that's like radio gold! When they do it in large numbers you know you're on a winner, that the story means something, that your listeners care about it and want you to get to the bottom of it.
Hadley is no Ben Fordham in the smarts department. He told his listeners that he was aware of Fordham's report on the matter - but then he went on to completely dismiss it. To add insult to injury, Hadley read brief extracts from 5 year old media reports about Victoria Police declining to charge Shorten - as if that was the end of the matter. Move along, nothing to see here.
The whole point of Ben's story was the fact of new developments in the case. Developments that happened as Ben was speaking. New evidence has been delivered to the police by the complainant this week. It's evidence the police can't ignore. And perhaps most importantly, Ben extracted the fact that one of our most senior criminal QC's says Kathy is an "excellent witness" and that in his opinion the case should now be brought to trial.
Hadley missed all that. He missed the fact that with two days until the Federal Election, Shorten's accuser has made it very clear that she's not giving up on getting justice. How is that not news?
This is Hadley's contribution to his listeners understanding of Kathy's case.
A few basics for Ray.
- Ben Fordham didn't interview "someone". "Who" is one of the first questions you should answer for your listeners. The fact "somone" is the former NCA chief Faris QC is relevant - it's also featured on your station's website.
- "Any number of emailers" writing to you is a pretty good clue about the importance of the matter to your listeners. Dismiss them at your peril.
- Fordham told us what happened this week. You told us what happened 5 years ago. You just forgot to add that your stuff was 5 years out of date.
- It's an insult to your concerned listeners and to your informed and diligent colleague Ben Fordham to add "I think most people would agree" with Shorten that "a line should be drawn on this". Most people would agree that we should ignore the victim and ignore Peter Faris QC? Ray, you're dreaming if you think "most people will agree with Bill Shorten that there's nothing to see here".
- Journalism, particularly intelligent investigative journalism isn't just reporting "if the case is brought before a court". It's a terrible waste of your valuable real-estate on the radio to just report on what's brought before the courts. Your listeners want to know when the authorities fail to act - they want you to be smart enough to bring pressure for action, to uncover corruption, to see offenders brought to justice. Anyone can read out court reports. You should be way ahead of the kids in the news room Ray.
- After Fordham's report, you close with a flippant "There's a line in the sand, hence that's why this isn't going to be discussed". Why don't you get Kathy in and explain your line in the sand to her. Maybe it's the same "line in the sand" that Gillard used with Craig Thomson - but that's another case where it took you quite a while to get your head around what the offender Thomson had been up to.
Some complainants are bullshit artists. But some, like Kathy, are credible people who have been hurt.
When new and credible information about our political leaders comes to light, your listeners have a right to know that you're at least trying to bring them the truth.
Otherwise you might as well just read stories out of the newspaper.
Oh, I forgot, that's most of your show.