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May 15th 2014 print

Roger Franklin

Saving Kids From Journalism

Going by the climate-change coverage in the Fairfax press, there are opportunities aplenty for the gullible and passionately ill-informed. Decent parents' will want to stop their children choosing the wrong career path, but it will be a hard case to make

journo kiddiePARENTS, be prepared! One day your child may share an ambition to make a career in journalism, perhaps even to study at the feet of the great scholars who impart their insights and experience via Australia’s tertiary institutions — stellar talents like the grammatically innovative Wendy Bacon or Melbourne University’s Margaret Simons, hoax-enabler, Malcolm Fraser’s unquestioning hagiographer and supporter of the Gillard government’s show-trial bid to regulate press freedom.

So what does a caring parent do to save the fruit of his or her loins from a tragic mistake? Point out, perhaps, that those same universities are turning out thousands of journalism graduates every year while the industry lays off newsroom staffers left and right? Or perhaps an appeal to vanity would be best. You might, for example, drag you child from bed on a Sunday morning and insist they watch Insiders. “Is this the meagre height of achievement to which you aspire?” you might begin, as David Marr preens, Barrie Cassidy overlooks the obvious and Laura Tingle cross-dresses Labor/Green talking points in the garb of independent insight?

Smarter youngsters will need no further convincing, but the dimmer kiddies may present a problem.

“Look here!” they might respond, “Ben Cubby, catastropharian, has been promoted to the deputy-editorship of the Sydney Morning Herald, so it’s not as if the news industry discriminates.”

Or what about fellow Fairfax climate-change worrywort Peter Hannam, who never comes across a prediction of imminent doom he is not prepared to parrot? Indeed, the Harvard graduate — it may be that Australia’s universities aren’t so bad after all, comparatively speaking — is at it again today, asserting as an aside in his coverage of the Hockey budget’s diminished funding for his favourite academic quote generators that the cuts will come “…despite ever-mounting evidence of the threat posed by more frequent extreme weather.” Later on in his piece, Hannam does some pulpiteering in the voice of a source. “They’re not concerned about our children’s and grandchildren’s futures at all,” his contact says in regard to Abbott & Co.

“See, Dad,” your child is apt to reply, “there hasn’t been an ounce of warming for 17 years, extreme weather events are no more frequent than in the past, and all those expensive climate models have been shown to be grievously in error. But none of that stops Hannam or gives his editors pause.”

At this point, with even the most caring parent tempted to admit defeat, it will be time to play the trump.

“Listen to me,” you will begin, “people are known by the company they keep, so my question to you is this: Do you really want to be associated with the same newspaper that opens the attic window once a week so Elizabeth Farrelly can shriek at the world about bicycles and unfortunate sorts who don’t live in the inner city?”

That argument should hit home with even the thickest child. Expect the next career-counselling session to focus on useful, honest occupations like chicken sexing or roadside rubbish collection.

Roger Franklin, editor of Quadrant Online, can still remember when journalists were more than stenographers and revelled in a healthy scepticism