Ask the activists why journalism is held in such low regard

Ask the activists why journalism is held in such low regard, by Chris Kenny.

Too often journalists accept that everybody is entitled to their own version of the truth, and assumed motives and ideology are given more weight than hard facts.

The tortured relationship between truth and journalism is one of the most frustrating and destructive aspects of public debate; a cancer eating away at public trust.

For decades it has been alarming that the journalists’ union (Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance) has paid short shrift to the primacy of truth.

Even though it styles itself as the keeper of journalistic ethics, it has been more comfortable running political campaigns than improving standards. Rather than encourage journalists to be active seekers of objective truth, it has encouraged them to be advocates on politically fashionable causes such as climate change and all the usual identity issues.

It talks far more about press freedom than press responsibility. It has a lot more to say on gender, for instance, than truth. Through its annual Walkley Awards the journalists’ union has recognised much excellent work over the years, but often it bestows accolades on journalism that pushes a certain agenda or advances a preferred cause. And at times this has put the Walkleys in a complicated relationship with the truth.

The acquittal of Cardinal George Pell throws a sharp spotlight onto these issues because the ABC journalist who has been the lead public prosecutor of Cardinal Pell, Louise Milligan, was awarded a Walkley for her book. Milligan’s thesis, that Pell is a child abuser, was prosecuted relentlessly through her reporting for the ABC and was echoed by established voices of the journalistic clique.

This claimed reality now has been debunked by the High Court. Yet Milligan’s Cardinal – The Rise and Fall of George Pell remains a Walkley Award standard bearer. Milligan was also awarded an Australian Press Council Press Freedom Medal and a Melbourne Press Club Gold Quill for her reporting on Cardinal Pell.

Truth matters. But with one side of politics currently committed to promoting certain fantasies, reality has been shoved aside for now.