We all know to take reporting by professionals with a grain of salt. (Don’t we?)
In the last couple of days we have seen an example of irresponsible journalism at its most creative and punitive.
I’m going to try to keep this brief and brusque, otherwise I may go into a rant from which none of us will recover.
Underpinning the story is the disappearance of the front page news article from yesterday’s issue of The Age. I don’t mean the front page was missing – I have it, sitting next to me, in hardcopy – I mean that some time between the morning and evening, their leading story online had vanished. I did a Google, and still couldn’t find it. I Googled some more, and came up with another unrelated story, which contained a hyperlink to the story I was after – the link was dead, nothing but a message telling me that it had been removed. By this morning, the Google search gave me the same results as yesterday, but even the hyperlink on the unrelated story had vanished.
Why would a newspaper print a front page story, then, sometime during the day remove it from the Internet? They still have coverage of their points in other articles, but the front-pager has vanished without a trace.
The hardcopy front page and the online lead headline was: “Footy's crook connections a real trap for young players” (byline - Andrew Rule) – you can see the headline still appears here in the first two search results. Yesterday, the second result contained the hyperlink with the headline, which went to the dead page. Today, even the hyperlink has gone.
The story was about footballer Adam Didak’s late night out with accused killer Christopher Hudson.
Within the early reports in the days after the recent CDB shootings it was reported that
Both of our daily papers are now running with the cruel story that if Adam Didak had come forth and spoken to the police earlier (as an eye witness – he was in the car with Hudson during the random shooting witnessed by the police) to tell them what he knew about the volley of shots no one would have been shot or killed in Melbourne’s CBD a week later.
This is a lie. I can’t prove that it’s a lie, but it is. Likewise, no one can prove that if Didak had come forward the CBD shootings would not have occurred.
Let me repeat this: there were police witnesses to the random shots at a building, they knew it was
Cruelly, journalists have dragged a grieving mother into this murky drama, using her to bolster their own invention of a story that Didak is ultimately, if only tangentially, responsible for the death of one man and the shooting of two other people. This is vile journalism.
This is how it was stated on the “vanished” front page story of The Age, July 01, 2007:
“But for all Didak’s protestations, one thing is clear: he had not been shocked enough by the gunplay and the visit to the Hells Angels clubhouse to bother mentioning it to anyone in authority.
Had he done so, the life of a brave man called Brendan Keilar might have been saved, and two other people not been badly wounded. One anonymous tip was all it needed.”
That’s a lie. A hurtful and cruel lie for all of the families affected by subsequent events.
It is also a reprehensible burden to place on the shoulders of anyone. There’s nothing exceptional or special about a pissed footballer, but Didak does not deserve such a devastatingly unfair and unwarranted accusation. The guilt is not his to bear.
Even the dumbest of journalists must be aware that the police don’t pop out to arrest an outlaw bikie based on an anonymous tip. They wouldn’t do that with a civilian either. Many days or weeks or even months of police work are applied before they “get their man” – depending on circumstance. Sure, there are exceptions, but anyone who thinks that an anonymous tip leads to a prompt arrest, or that walking into a police station and providing a statement leads to immediate arrest is a dolt. Our police force would be running around like mad hatters randomly arresting people if that was how they worked. With or without witness statements, police still have to build a case, or risk “premature arrest”, potentially blowing the likelihood of a conviction. When you throw known criminals into the mix, who are not coy when it comes to using weapons, the picture is even more complex, particularly for ensuring the safety of police and the public, if it came down to making an arrest.
We have no reason to believe that an anonymous tip from Didak, or a statement from him at a police station, would have lead to the arrest of
Go back and read the quote I've provided above, from the "vanished" Age article.
"The mother of city shooting victim Brendan Keilar said Alan Didak's inaction after a wild ride with Hells Angel Christopher Wade Hudson might have cost her son his life."Sound familiar?
I don't blame a grieving mother for any of these statements. It is easy to envisage journalists feeding these conclusions to a distraught family member, coming up with exactly the result they wanted. It is repulsive behavior, grubby journalism.
"Mrs Keilar said her son might be alive if Didak had acted and not waited for police to come to him.
"If he had gone to the police with information about the shootings, it's possible Brendan would still be alive," Mrs Keilar said. "He is obviously not fussy about who he associates with."
Mrs Keilar said the footballer should not have stayed silent about the incident. "I would have expected any decent person in that situation would have reported it to the police."
So, how and why did the police, eventually, approach Didak? Well, I guess that takes us back to where we started: there were police witnesses to the earlier "gunplay", and, very likely, the police already knew (perhaps not on the night, but later) that Didak was in the car, or at the least, someone they wanted to have a chat to - prior to the CBD shooting, they didn't.
I'm perplexed and disturbed that The Age have removed their page one story from online records. I'd like to know why.
I'm even more disturbed by our newspapers turning a drunk footballer into a pariah, placing a multiple shooting on his shoulders. That is obscene. It is equally obscene for journalists to torment family members with the remote possibility that events that unfolded were avoidable, an anonymous phone call, or some other trifle of action, would have changed everything.
If Brendan Keilar had arrived at work 90 seconds earlier, or been heading to his office 90 seconds later, we can say, with almost 100% surety, that he would still be alive. But that's not what happened. Life's margins are frighteningly fine.