Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An open letter to Herald Sun 'journalist' Fiona Hudson

Dear Fiona,

As a journalist, broadcaster and avid consumer and fan of the arts; as someone who has volunteered for numerous arts organisations over the past 20 years; and as someone who is well aware of the positive economic impact our many excellent festivals such as Melbourne Fringe, Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Next Wave, Melbourne Queer Film Festival and Big West bring to Melbourne; I feel obliged to say, in response to your article about the City of Melbourne's arts funding program in today's Herald Sun newspaper: shame on you!

By demonising the artists concerned and failing to accurately and fairly present their viewpoints - indeed, it failed to present their viewpoints at all - your article failed to present both sides of the story.

It took a deliberately emotive and biased stance that skewed what should have been an impartial article into a piece of inflamatory and reactionary rhetoric, which appealed only to your readers' most basic and ill-informed opinions and sensibilities.

Have you read the Australian Journalists' Association's Code of Ethics, lately, which recognise 'respect for truth and the public's right for information' as 'fundamental principles of journalism'?

Have you forgotten the very first point of the code that journalists commit themselves to? Allow me to remind you, Fiona. It says that journalists should:

1. Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply.

Perhaps you need a refresher course in journalistic ethics, Fiona? Or are we to assume that your flouting of the Code of Ethics is deliberate, and your scaremongering equally so? In which case I say to you again: SHAME ON YOU.

Yours sincerely,
Richard Watts

Producer/Presenter, SmartArts, 3RRR FM
Arts Editor, Arts Hub
Arts Writer, Citysearch
Man About Town


Paul Martin said...

You're right to put 'journalist' in inverted commas, because that piece sure as hell isn't journalism. That it's on the front page is disgraceful. It's sensationalist, deliberately misleading and similar to the worst of Andrew Bolt's vile rants.

Cazzie!!! said...

There are so many things I love about Melbourne. The main reason I love entertaining guests from around not only this country but from around the World is because of the arts we display. Our festivals are amazing, there is something on at any given time. Not every town has what Melbourne is lucky enough to have.
I support anything that makes people take notice...and what this person who wrote that article does not account for, is the fact that all these Arts Festvals and displays bring in the tourism, bring in the money, and put Melbourne on the World map. For that, I am pleased.

TimT said...

Speaking as a person who is, in a small way, contributing to Melbourne arts, I reckon the local arts community should stop being so defensive and should stop reacting in a knee-jerk manner to articles like this. Why shouldn't questions be asked about the appropriate expenditure of public funds? This, for instance, is an interesting example:

A CHARITY handed $14,000 so homeless people can produce a cookbook of their favourite recipes.

Imagine how many weeks rent, how many extra beds, how much community housing, how much health care that money could have been spent on - things that have immediate and practical use for those unfortunate enough to be homeless.

richardwatts said...

Tim, I agree with you that questions can and should be asked about the funding process, but to echo your comment, I believe they should be asked in an appropriate way: not in an article which is so clearly and obviously biased.

As to the cookbook example, I think that publication of homeless people's recipes will have a practical effect in terms of the sense of self-worth it will help generate.

Your concerns that the money could be better spent on practical assistance are valid, but don't forget that we're specifically talking in this instance about funding from the small pool - about 1% of Council's expenditure - that is specifically earmarked for the arts.

There's an entirely seperate pool of funding allocated to social welfare programs. Should that pool be increased? Definitely.

But given the small amount allocated to the arts - a funding pool which was already reduced by 20% last year - I think it's unfair to suggest that the money should be spent on welfare projects.

And besides, there's a long and successful history of art-as-community-building, of which the recipe book is surely just the latest example.

TimT said...

Oh, I like that it's biased. I'm biased in favour of bias.

Paul Martin said...

That article doesn't ask questions, it's just rabble-rousing, tut-tutting in a completely disingenuous manner.

As for funding a cookbook rather than spend the money on other support for the homeless, it all gets down to what the pool of funds was for. Was it for social welfare (ie, homelessness) or was it for the arts, or what? May we could spend a few billion dollars less on the military and we could produce a library of cookbooks.

Mardi said...

Thanks Richard for this... I was just reading the article myself after discussions about Public Art and general arts funding. I thought that it was interesting how they described the projects. One in particular I knew what it was and lots of people were involved with it, they learnt new skills and a new way to express themselves... and it only cost $4k! Bargain really when I think of the costs of 'self help' and psychics that people waste their money on when they just need to make some art!

Tim Norton said...

You called someone working at the Herald Sun a 'journalist.'

conrad said...

I'm impressed that you can put up with reading the Herald Sun. I don't think I would ever have known about this without being told.

elaine said...

hear! hear!

Anonymous said...

I delighted in the poll 'hijacking' - definitely not the result that the Herald Sun was aiming for!