Thank goodness for gutsy journalists

COMMENT BY KATHY SUNDSTROM: MAJOR news happened in the courts this week - and I'm not sure you would have noticed.

Clive Palmer lost his court case against Nationwide News and two of its most respected journalists, Hedley Thomas and Adam Shand.

You should care, because the decision is a victory for the freedom of the press in more ways than most people would ordinarily consider.

It's a victory for journalism, which is so often stifled by bullies and spin machines with more money and more manpower to force their own agenda.

In the past four years there's been a dramatic change in how the media has able to operate.

Declining revenues mean many more publications are afraid to take on big cases that may result in a costly legal dispute, and many more publications are afraid to take on an issue that may offend a lucrative advertiser.

It's sad, but it's business.

And the losers aren't only the many journalists around the country who have lost their jobs as the industry redefines itself.

We are all the poorer for it, and if not for gutsy journalists like Thomas, Shand and our own Bill Hoffman, you would get little more than rehashed press releases.

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Politicians know what is happening and are using it in a way that in my opinion is more subversive than the blatant dictatorship of many African countries.

Previously when I wanted comment from a state, federal or even local government representative, I would simply pick up the phone and have a chat.

Now it first has to be screened by their minders and then you wait a day for it to go through "checks and balances" to make sure the scripted message is as they want it.

Rarely are there answers to direct questions.

Some minders decide if you offend with a story they can't sue you on, they will simply not talk to you again.

This was the response of one after I wrote a story about how his boss's business wasn't doing well.

"I have spoken with your editor and have told him I'm not interested in talking to you. Goodbye."

He never has, since then.

Other media advisers take their whinge to the top and argue their body of advertising merits special treatment.

It's wrong. We should all be thankful when people - and their organisations - are tough enough to say so.


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