Thursday, May 30, 2024

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NT News interfered with reporting to protect ad income from NT Government: Allegation

Top brass at the Murdoch-owned NT News, the sister paper in the Territory of the Centralian Advocate, have been accused of striking a deal with the Territory government because of concerns that “negative” reporting of the government’s activities could cost the paper advertising revenue.
This allegation was reported yesterday by Sarah Danckert in the Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper The Age, covering an unfair dismissal claim lodged in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday by former NT News political reporter Christopher Walsh.
Ms Danckert reports that in his court application, Mr Walsh alleges his editor, Matt Williams, and the paper’s general manager, Greg Thomson, entered into a “blind copying arrangement” with the chief executive of the Department of the NT Chief Minister, Jodie Ryan, for her to blind copy in Mr Thomson and Mr Williams into all correspondence with the government and public service agencies.
Mr Thomson was previously a reporter at the Advocate and  has been in media advisor roles for the CLP, including six months as director of communications and marketing for the Department of the Chief Minister when the CLP was in office.
The Age reports it is alleged the agreement was struck “because Ms Ryan did not like the exposure from articles written by the applicant in which she was held accountable to the public.
“It is also alleged that on October 9 last year Mr Williams spiked a story by Mr Walsh about NT Department of Housing chief executive Jamie Chalker,” writes Ms Danckert.
“A day earlier, Mr Walsh had revealed in the NT News that Mr Chalker was under investigation for allegedly awarding a plum public service job to a childhood friend.
“Mr Walsh alleges the story did not run because Mr Williams was ‘under pressure from the top’ and he alleges that after he made separate complaints about alleged interference in a court matter and the blind copying arrangement, his relationship soured with the paper’s top brass.
“The reporter was dismissed on October 19. He is seeking reinstatement, back pay and damages. Mr Walsh has named Nationwide News – a key subsidiary of News Corp – and Mr Williams as defendants in the case.”
“A spokeswoman for News Ltd said: ‘News Corp Australia and the NT News strongly refute the claims made by Mr Walsh who was dismissed. As the matter is currently before the Court, we have no further comment,'” Ms Danckert reports.


  1. After reading such a story you could be left with two trains of thought.
    [1] If you live by the sword you die by it, and Mr Walsh is no angel when it comes to [running] his version of a story even after he has been given all the facts. Most people I speak to are pleased he got sacked and follow that up with “he deserved it”.
    [2] Then there is the issue of credibility, a disgruntled employee etc etc and we all know how that ends.
    But, and a big but, what if what Christopher Walsh is saying is accurate and there is NT Government interference in what the NT News prints, what if this is true?
    It would certainly vindicate the claims from the political party 1 Territory of vindictive behaviour by the NT News during election campaigns.
    But who would have joined the dots without Christopher’s own admission of [alleged] collusion between the NT News and senior Gunner Government Executive Public servants, who would have guessed?
    But, there is nothing to worry about because there will be an internal disciplinary hearing on the matter? But what if there isn’t on the basis that it would reach into every Gunner Government run department?
    Who would Joe Blow in the street make a complaint to about the [any] abuse of tax payers’ money spent with said media on the basis of influencing the same?
    The NT Police? But what if they are involved as well? I know the Chief Minister? But it was his department that is in the spotlight for exactly that reason?
    Who does one complain to? The alledged illegal activities are worthy of the media’s focus. BUT will we get the truth or will he take gag money on the steps of the court?
    Where is the Department of Public Prosecutions on this? Isn’t their mission statement “to provide the community with an independent, professional and effective criminal prosecution service”? Where are they?
    That’s right, their minister is a Labor politician.Will heads roll?
    [If the allegations are correct] Territorians will still get the news that the public servant executives and the Gunner Government pay for, with money that should be spent on Territorians.
    Is it any wonder that the Federal government is cutting funding to the Northern Territory.
    They have every right to with this behaviour ruling the day.
    Thank Christ for Alice Springs News Online.

  2. This situation has been going on now for 30 years.
    It commenced from July 1988 when the Centralian Advocate had the temerity to publish a scathing front page editorial after the CLP dumped Chief Minister Steve Hatton and replaced him with Marshall Perron.
    This was the fourth leadership change in government in as many years and the Advocate didn’t pull its punches in its savage criticism of the CLP.
    During this period the CLP was rocked by the resignation of Deputy CM Ray Hanrahan from all his portfolios and then from the CLP, finally resigning from politics in August 1988.
    This was followed by the Flynn by-election of September 10, 1988, in which the CLP suffered a 21 % swing against it in what was formerly a safe seat.
    It was clearly evident from this result that the CLP could no longer rely on any seat in the NT being safe and its hold on power was at great risk.
    It was exactly at this time there was a sudden change of management of the Centralian Advocate, when accomplished reporter and long-serving editor Bob Watts was replaced by Gary Shipway and sent to do mostly court reporting for the NT News until his retirement in 2005.
    (For his part, from about 1991 onwards, Shipway went on to serve as the chief media advisor to the CLP for many years – he is now a reporter for the NT News).
    In the late 1980s the CLP cultivated extremely close relations with the management of News Corp in the NT, to both sides mutual advantage. It was a crucial factor for the success of the CLP during its “bonus decade” in power of the 1990s.
    This situation has largely continued to the present day, with News Corp essentially prostituting itself to whichever political party happens to be in government; with the notable exception of the self-destructing Giles Government with which it was impossible to be seen in public support of it.
    I am able to provide evidence to verify my claims. There is no doubt that the independence of the media in the Northern Territory (not just News Corp) has long been severely compromised to the overall detriment of good government of the Territory.

  3. It is probably assumed in the NT Government that people with historical knowledge of past deals by the NT Government, with evidence to back it up, are no longer around.
    There is much power wielded by Executive Government allowing it to do the deals it does.
    As far as jobs go in the upper echelon, there appears to be no equal playing field.
    Merit based appointments is all rubbish.
    It seems its more like whom you know, not much indication of interview.
    And it is all detrimental to good government of the NT.

  4. Alex, you will find that the NT News negative reporting of the previous CLP government started well before Giles, in fact it played a major part in Giles’s takeover of the leadership.
    In December 2012 following the CLP’s election win, Nigel Adlam had reported on some completely false allegations against Alison Anderson and the CLP, a good summary of this can be found on the ABC Media Watch website.
    Mills subsequently withdrew all government advertising from the NT News which started an all-out war against the government. The NT News’s complete refusal to publish anything positive about the Mills government at the time was a significant source of consternation within the parliamentary wing, the rest is history.
    Unfortunately the public seem happy to blindly follow the NT News despite, as you point out, its historically poor standards of journalistic integrity.


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