A tale of two journalists: of Alan Saunders, Andrew Bolt and the contempt News Ltd publications has for people “like me”

This morning a small media story slipped through the frenzied chatter about the fate of Australia’s media – many may have missed it.

I have been a regular listener of the ABCs Philosophers Zone for several years, a program that has greatly enriched the intellectual life of many Australians. It was hosted by Alan Saunders, a reporter for Radio National – an intelligent, erudite and engaging presenter.

Sadly Saunders passed away last Friday:

ABC Radio National’s well-known philosopher and foodie Alan Saunders has died of pneumonia in hospital on Friday.

While working on his program The Philosopher’s Zone on Thursday afternoon, Alan fell ill and was taken to hospital where his condition deteriorated overnight.

He died on Friday morning surrounded by colleagues and friends.

After joining Radio National in 1987, Dr Saunders founded The Food Program and worked as a presenter on By Design and Screen – a program about film and television.

“In his 25 years with Radio National, Alan made a substantial contribution to the intellectual discourse in Australia and certainly to the enjoyment of his audiences,” ABC director of radio Kate Dundas said.

“He had both a distinctive voice and a distinguished mind – a great combination for a presenter of engaging and thought-provoking radio.”

As Australia’s media landscape undergoes profound change I cannot but think the quality of our national debate, the vibrancy of our culture and the literacy of our citizens would be all the much better if there were more men like Alan Saunders.

Thus his passing away is very sad news – but also offered a study in contrasts.

As I grabbed my morning coffee this morning, I flicked through the pages of the Herald Sun. In doing so I had the great pleasure of finding not one, but two articles by Andrew Bolt.

If you want to know the quality of a man, then read the opening paragraphs in Bolt’s piece in today’s Herald Sun defending Gina Rinehart:

THE hysteria over billionaire Gina Rinehart is not just funny. Have you ever seen so many hypocrites, wasters and self-servers pretending to be principled?

It is also dangerous. Have you ever seen so many people reach for new laws to stifle a free media and to impose a Left-preaching government behemoth instead?

I could not help but contrast the vitriol and hate of Bolt with the intelligence and breadth of learning of Saunders.

A reader’s perspective: how reading a News Ltd publication makes “me” feel

There are many reasons to be concerned about the tone and content of News Ltd’s journalists.

For me it is the hatred of “elites” – scientists, teachers and progressives – that drips from the pages the Herald Sun, The Australian and Daily Telegraph. As a recent piece on The Conversation noted it is part of a conservative “culture war”:

For years, in the tabloid media and on talkback radio, we’ve been hearing about the domination of Australian politics by a “new class” of left-wing “cultural elites”, but the Rinehart ascendancy at Fairfax confirms quite a different trend: a new conservative elite now rules the roost. One backed by cold hard cash and reported demands for control of editorial agendas.

To see this new elite at work one only has to look across the hard-line conservative network that seeks to dominate public debate on a range of scientific, economic and social issues such as global warming, taxation, and human rights

I’ll readily admit I’m progressive in some of my politics, while also sincere in my support for a vibrant debate in which all voices are heard. I’m supportive of free markets appropriately regulated. I accept the expertise of scientists in regards to climate change, evolution and germ theory.

And yet these views are demonised, ridiculed and dismissed as “elitist”. When I pick up the Herald Sun – indeed any News Ltd publication – I feel the publication has nothing but contempt for me.

There has been much schadenfreude on the part of News Ltd journalists claiming that Fairfax is dying because it only spoke to an “inner-city-latte-sipping-tofu-munching-elite” and not to “ordinary Australians” (ignoring the fact the entire industry is in decline).

My concern for climate change is motivated by the risks associated: from health and welfare, to security concerns and the impact on the economy.

My values are those of my fellow citizens – I’m not the outlier.

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8 thoughts on “A tale of two journalists: of Alan Saunders, Andrew Bolt and the contempt News Ltd publications has for people “like me”

  1. Goldie says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. Alan Saunders was an enlightened presence. Bolt merely spews paranoiac hate and simplistic thinking; unfortunately he seems to be the mouthpiece for the majority.

  2. Andrew MacDonald says:

    Thanks for this Dave.

    I thought of Bolt when Saunders died because Bolt had previously mentioned him in a post called ‘Hamilton omms’. Bolt quotes Clive Hamilton from an interview on the ‘Philosopher’s Zone’ and writes, ‘Note how the ABC presenter laps it up’.

    Cleary, Bolt had no idea who Saunders was or the nature of the show he presented. But his comment was typical of his winning formula of negativity and ignorance.

    I too will miss Saunders greatly.

  3. DaveMcRae says:

    Terrible news about Alan Saunders.

    And I will miss his podcast.

    I’ve never looked at Bolt – although I’ve see some of his horrid work. I will miss, but understand why, the PurePoison lads at Crikey are ceasing their Bolt watch, the blog and great podcasts (I’d so recommend them if you’re not familiar, cathct their last podcast about to happen or the very funny one just gone http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/ ). They read the rubbish and held it to the ridicule it deserves so that I didn’t have to look at the rubbish. I don’t think I could stomach it for any length of time.

  4. Joel says:

    That graph is all sorts of fascinating. The way ABC/SBS are stacked on top of each other, and the way that the obvious comparisons (the commercial TV stations) have been left out, being the obvious ones. But, hey, it’s from the IPA, so no skepticism is required or approved of.

    And, of course, disclosing a possible conflict of interest when writing an article expressing complete and total support for your sugar mamma is old hat.

  5. john byatt says:

    Rinehart no longer even needs to demand editorial influence, she effectively now has that by just asking for it, denied or not, woe to any editor who does not now follow the anti climate, pro mining editorial line, the changes will be obvious to all.

  6. Sammy Jankis says:

    Bolt is now posting a graph from John Roskam at the IPA showing the cash flows of the ABC, News Ltd, and Fairfax. He quotes Roskam:

    The government says when wealthy people buy media companies there are ‘very big implications for our democracy’. So what are the implications for democracy when the government runs its own media companies?

    The problem is, the government doesn’t “run” the ABC. It funds it. If the government of the day presumably has some form of editorial control over the ABC why were the Howard years filled with endless whinging about a supposed left-wing anti-government bias? Do Bolt or Roskam have any evidence of the ALP calling ABC News staff to say change your tune or start looking for another job? They’re comparing apples and oranges.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      This is the very confusion Bolt hopes to engender… of course the Government doesn’t run the ABC. News Ltd is doing everything possible to focus the debate on Fairfax and the ABC while the slash staff and buy up more media assets.

  7. zoot says:

    Hear, hear!
    I read somewhere that when Rupert started his UK depradations he saw himself, with some justification, as anti-establishment. Unfortunately, even though he is now a very powerful member of the establishment, his self image hasn\’t changed. Thus his empire takes the viewpoint you so rightly condemn.
    The sooner the old fart karks it, the better for humanity.

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