April 12, 2017

Horse 2259 - Natasha Exelby, The Daily Telegraph, And Barely Credible Lies

By now I'm guessing that if you've been on the internet this week, you will have probably seen the video of ABC News 24 presenter Natasha Exelby fiddling with her pen and suddenly realising that the cameras are on her¹. As a piece of footage, it perfectly captures the moment of unbridled terror in a human being and it ends with her regaining her composure and continuing on with the job valiantly. I guess that it is one of the perils of working in live television and the responsibility of this blooper should like not with Ms Exelby but the floor manager and director. Usually there would be someone counting the presenter back in and the fact that this didn't happen for whatever reason, is one of the consequences of having humans run things.

The thing is though, had this happened on commercial television, then this would have been reported as a funny thing and we all would have laughed and that would have been the end of it but because this happened on the ABC, this gave rise to a very different series of events; that instead of being a mistake, was an act of belligerence.

Reports began to fly around that Ms Exelby had been fired by the ABC for the mistake and because nobody really bothers to fact check anything any more, then the report snowballed until the ABC was forced to publish a statement which said that this wasn't the case.

Media reports that Natasha has been “banned”, “barred” or “fired” are untrue.  Natasha is a freelance journalist who works as a contributor. She has been rostered for various shifts and has been assured since yesterday that we want that to continue. While she is not currently doing any on-air shifts, this will be subject to normal performance management. I have spoken to Natasha and conveyed our regret that this has attracted such attention.
- Statement from ABC News Director, Gaven Morris, 11th Apr 2017.

However, if you follow the time stamps on all of the various news reports, if you go back far enough you will find who do originated the story, and this hunt leads to the door of the Daily Telegraph.

NATASHA Exelby has paid a high price for her weekend blooper, after the humourless management at ABC24 banned the newsreader from playing any future on-air role.
- The Daily Telegraph, 10th Apr 2017.

By "Exclusive" I usually assume that they spoke to a source to support their claim, however there doesn't appear to be much evidence of that. Take note of the language used in their article.

Exelby told News Corp “it would be inappropriate for me to comment”.


Failing to respond to a request for confirmation


News Corp is pursuing ABC management for further comment,

Now I don't know about you but I don't believe that the Daily Telegraph actually made any attempt to contact either the ABC or Ms Exelby despite the fact that they said that she spoke to them (it's only their word for it). What I think is going on is the latest in the continuing war by News Corp against the existence of the ABC. Earlier in the week we had Maurice Newman in The Australian calling for both the ABC and SBS to privatised² and I suspect that what happened here was that the Daily Telegraph saw an opportunity to bite and took it.

The Daily Telegraph ran a splash on the front page, an article on page 3 (which increasingly is being reserved by the Daily Telegraph for running pictures of ladies in various states of undress, in lack of actual journalism) and a further piece ran on their editorial page where the paper could hide behind the cloak of anonymity and write more unsubstantiated claims. I hate editorial pieces which are written in the name of the masthead only because it gives the writer the ability to never be held to account for what they've written; I think that it is pretty much journalistic cowardice.

I suspect that the Daily Telegraph can get away with this because there isn't a specific law against making stuff up and publishing it. Laws surrounding defamation exist and there are remedies which can be sought but because Ms Exelby hasn't really been specifically defamed and as such, no claim can be filed.
Really what's going on here is an attempt by the Daily Telegraph to make the ABC look either foolish or cruel and they don't really care about any collateral damage that might occur. By the time that Billy Brown of Sydney Town has worked out what's going on, if in fact he cares at all, the whole news cycle has moved on again and all has been forgotten. The ABC isn't going to mount a legal challenge because that's expensive and the net gain is nil. Unless there was some sort of scandal, with pictures, then the Daily Telegraph knows that it can publish a thing like this in absolute impunity. I think that this propaganda at its finest because the truth is boring and the public don't care anyway.

This is where the story would have ended except that I opened the Daily Telegraph this morning to read this:

Meanwhile, the ABC appears to have backflipped on its decision to bench newsreader Natasha Exelby over the innocent blooper, amid the tidal wave of public backlash.
Reports surfaced last night that management at the ABC decided to ban weekend newsreader Natasha Exelby from appearing on air after she was caught off guard during a live news shift.
- The Daily Telegraph, 11th Apr 2017.

No. The ABC doesn't appear to have backflipped on its decision to bench newsreader Natasha Exelby over the innocent blooper because it appears that it never made such a decision in the first place. Reports only surfaced last night that management at the ABC decided to ban weekend newsreader because nobody had bothered to fact check whether or not the report was in fact real. Those reports didn't come from the ABC; quite the opposite, ABC management outright denied this.

If anything, it looks like the Daily Telegraph has told a lie and then doubled-down on that lie by telling another one.

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