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December 02nd 2013 print

Cut, Paste and Presto! That’s an ‘interview’

Rick Feneley claims: “Three of the 25 men – Uncle Cecil, Uncle Manuel and Uncle Richard, as they like to be known – have told their stories to Fairfax Media.” This is misleading, to say the least. A good deal of the Fairfax text about Cecil Bowden has simply been cut and pasted from the website of the Kinchela Boys Home, without acknowledging it as the source.

Here is a sample of Feneley’s text about Cecil Bowden. He is talking about an incident where one of the boys made a footprint in the wet concrete of a new floor:

“When the manager saw it, he went crazy … Well, he made all of us go and put our foot over the imprint and see which one it fitted. It fitted mine, and it probably fitted about five or six other blokes too. … He just didn’t like me and I got the blame … Then he made me strip and started flogging me with the cane … All I could do was put one hand over my groin and one over my face to protect myself and just let him flog me. And the thing is, I refused to cry because I didn’t want to give that man the satisfaction. After he got tired of flogging me with the cane …”

And here is the text of the website:

“When the manager saw it he went crazy. So he lined all the boys up and wanted to know who put their footprint in the concrete. It would’ve fitted half a dozen blokes. It fitted mine. Because he didn’t like me I got the blame and I was stripped and flogged with a cane … And all I could do was put one hand on my groin, the other hand on my face, to protect myself. And I refused to cry, you know, because I didn’t want to let that man know he was getting over us, getting the better of me. And, you know, I don’t know how long the — the flogging lasted, but I was black and blue all over. He got sick of hitting me.”

Here is another quote from what Feneley claims to have come from his interview about how Bowden was reconciled with his father:

“A bloke said to me, ‘You ought to get back to Cowra and see your old man.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about, you bastard?’ – because they constantly told us in the home that the reason we were in those homes was that we had no parents.”

And here is the text of the website:

“I ran into a bloke here, here in Redfern, he said ‘Hey, you want to get to Cowra and see your old man?’ I said ‘What are you talking about?’ He said ‘Your old man’s in Cowra.’ You see they constantly told us the reason we were in those homes is we had no parents.”

There was a time when journalists would regard cutting and pasting a text from another source without identifying that source as unprofessional. A former night editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Feneley should have known this.

Sadly, standards at Fairfax are not what they were.