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The ABC invents a quote

fergusonYou sometimes hear mention on the ABC of that semi-mythical beast “quality journalism”, which one can easily imagine the national broadcaster perceives itself as epitomising, although just what it is that characterises as “quality” a particular approach to reporting the facts would seem an entirely subjective business. When Current Affair or one of the other tabloid TV teams chase an alleged miscreant down the street that, presumably, is but journalism of the gutter variety. When  7.30 does the same thing, as it did last night while reporting on the travails of dills who mortgaged their homes to invest in risky financial schemes, that must be some of the “quality” stuff we hear so much about.

Perhaps what the commercial shows lack are comperes with all the warmth of a stonefish. Or maybe, while the tabloids are sometimes guilty of selective quotation, your real quality journalism strips narratives to their essence and simply puts words in people’s mouths, for that is what happened last night in the second of 7.30‘s items, which dealt with online piracy in general and illegally downloaded episodes of Game of Thrones in particular.

“Australia’s main consumer group says such piracy is justified and the Government has no business trying to protect Foxtel’s profits,”

Those words Sarah Ferguson’s by way of the item’s lead-in. Indeed, Ferguson aka Mrs Tony Jones – is still saying those same words in the ABC ‘s online footage, but not in the segment’s transcript. As rendered in writing, Ferguson’s intro now reads:

“Australia’s main consumer group says Foxtel has itself to blame and the Government has no business trying to protect Foxtel’s profits.”

Compare and contrast the underlined passages in each version. There is quite a difference, but one must drop all the way to the foot of the transcript for an explanation:

EDITOR’S NOTE (Tuesday 17 June, 2014): The introduction to this story has been amended from the original to more accurately reflect Choice’s position.

Ah-ha! So that must be what quality journalism is all about: the skill and chutzpah to pen expiating fudge when dead-to-rights wrong. If only those low-brow tabloid shows realised as much, their hacks might also be sitting on Walkley Award panels and giving each other awards.

Meanwhile, unless you have the time and patience to wade through the segment’s transcript, replete with sympathetic sound bytes of fantasy-costumed youths insisting they are entitled to steal what they cannot afford, Ferguson will keep right on repeating that bogus endorsement of piracy every time someone clicks the online video’s ‘play’ arrow.

UPDATE: At the Catallaxy blog, the very same episode of 7.30 has inspired Judith Sloan to observe:

“The Board of the ABC is simply not doing its job – it is there to maintain the journalistic standards of the corporation and there is no evidence at all that it is doing this.”

Sloan is just getting started.