Journalist @MargaretSimons stands up to Oz intimidation, speaks out on media reform


Dr Margaret Simons – Centre for Advancing Journalism

By Margo Kingston,

March 19, 2013

I’ve known Meg Simons for more than 25 years. We met in the Fairfax Brisbane bureau in the late 1980s – she was The Age correspondent,  me a new recruit for the Times on Sunday. We covered the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and I learnt courage and persistence – and tried to learn detachment – from her. She’s since written novels,  investigative non-fiction on the Hindmarsh Island Affair, books on the Press Gallery and the media and a biography of Malcolm Fraser. She’s now an academic journalist at Melbourne University and writes on media for Crikey.

Meg is one of Australia’s finest journalists. She has also been a victim of intense, sustained intimidation by The Australian over her support for Finkelstein’s recommendations on media regulation and her disagreement with the paper on the merits of a power struggle in the Victorian Police force. Jonathan Holmes detailed aspects of  the bullying in Trivial pursuit: When The Australian gets personal. I’m told The Drum did not want to publish this piece for fear of flak from the Oz, and that Mark Scott personally cleared it for publication.

During its campaign, the Oz published a page one story falsely accusing her of  a form of corruption in the judging of a Walkley award. It refused to published a letter to the editor from former Oz editor Malcolm Schmidtke and former Sunday Age editor Gay Alcorn (my sister) which corrected the record.

When I had dinner with Meg and her children last November, she told me the Oz had staked out her home (CORRECTION: Meg has corrected my recollection – her children feared their home would be staked out after Meg was snapped by an Oz photographer at work). It’s my guess she’d be one of the people Press Council Chief Julian Disney had in mind when he said today that victims of ‘very bad abuses’ frequently would not lodge a complaint for fear of retribution.

Meg still has the courage to stand up for good journalism and good policy on media regulation. Here is her submission to the Senate media reform inquiry. She will give evidence at 6.30 tonight.

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  1. To be honest, I’m not sure I agree with you about Margaret, Margo. To my mind, much of her writing recently, especially on issues related to the Australian, has felt a bit like grandstanding. I prefer to see more positivity and reader engagement from journalists — such as you have demonstrated with Webdiary and AFHP — than criticism of the old media elite. As they say, ‘don’t hate the media, become the media’. To my mind, Margaret has her foot a bit too heavily in the old world and (although I know she has done some work in this area) could do more to help create the new ;)

    When it comes to the debate over the current proposed package of media reforms, you can see where each player sits by how engaged they are in the process. ‘Legacy media’, such as the newspapers and TV stations, are heavily engaged and quite vitriolic. Then there’s another circle of academics and commentators engaged with that as well, often those who used to work for the major outlets and now analyse them.

    Significant new media players have largely ignored the whole thing; content to sit out the debate and get on with the job of producing journalism while the traditional outlets argue themselves in circles and fight the government … instead of focusing on what readers actually want.


  2. All the best, Meg. We crossed paths many years ago at The Age.

    Margo: ” … victims of ‘very bad abuses frequently (didn’t?) lodge a complaint for fear of retribution.”


  3. Thanks snodger, fixed.

    Renai, Meg is very engaged in new media, eg her university’s citizrn agenda –

    And read the last section of her submission on old media collapse.

  4. paul walter says

    My god, what a fall public broadcasting and press, including broadsheet msm have had.
    To think ABC editors would not have the gorm to run something that inoffensive at the much tampered with Drum site would be risible, except that it seems now the norm rather than the exception within the now timid and self censoring world of msm.
    In fact that’s the farcical way its been since deregulation and Cash for Comments.
    If they are doing right, what would they have to fear from re regulation let alone something as soft as self regulation?

  5. Reblogged this on lmrh5.