My father once told my grandfather, a deeply religious man, that I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up.
His dour response was: “ All lawyers are liars.”
I wonder what his reaction would have been had my ambition been to be to go into journalism.
I thought of this when I read the leading front page headline in the print edition of The Sydney Morning Herald on 1 September, 2008:“ The G-G’s intervention: It’s a good life for black Australians.”
The report was by Gay Alcorn, who is not responsible for the headline.
The report is quite different. It says that Major General Jeffery, who leaves office after five years on Wednesday, said there were about 520,000 people with "indigenous blood" in Australia.
"I suspect that about 350-400,000 of those are already integrated satisfactorily into the country," General Jeffery said in a farewell interview on Sky News.
“Integrated to such an extent that you don't hear about them, they're doing what we would look upon as normal jobs, living normal Australian lives."
About 100,000 Aborigines mostly living in the remote north had been "doing it hard for many years".
…an editorial to keep the story going…
Having manufactured a story through a headline which can be charitably described as “inaccurate” the next day, 2 September, 2008 the editor of The Herald launched an attack on the Governor-General based on the thrust of that headline.
The opening sentence of the editorial, “The unreal view from Yarralumla, “indicates a great sense of humour at The Herald’s editorial conference.
Can you imagine the guffaws when they discussed these words?
“The outgoing Governor-General, Michael Jeffery, has kept a profile in office so low as to leave many Australians nonplussed when asked to recall his name.”
A good slice of the mainline media adopted an obvious policy of ignoring the Governor-General, in contrast to their decision to bring down his predecessor, which was highlighted by the editing of a broadcast interview designed to give the wrong impression.
Then the editor says the Governor-General is to blame over the controversy.
Now which controversy was that? Oh yes, that was the controversy manufactured by…. the Herald headline.
“ Now in his final days in the post, he seems determined to create as stark a contrast as possible with the world around him….”
And then we have the editor forgiving Major-General Jeffery for the sin of which the Herald is guilty.
As he “ was speaking off the cuff, and in broad terms: he can be forgiven for inaccuracy or lack of detail.”
The editor concludes: “In the meantime, indigenous Australians need active help and support – not the dismissive optimism of the view from the viceroy's rose-coloured Land Rover.”
And The Herald was once a proud journal of record.
With Charles Kemp, John fairfax acquired the Sydney Herald in 1841, and turned it into that formidable newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald. What would he think?