If you are coming in late on this, you might want to read the previous few posts. I wrote in the Crikey email on Friday that few News Limited journos have read, or even know about, the company’s code of professional conduct, which CEO John Hartigan described, in the wake of the News of the World Scandal, as being at the heart of how News Limited journalists work.

As a result I got some correspondence from News Limited spin doctor Greg Baxter saying, basically, that it wasn’t so. As a result I put out a call to News Limited journos past and present, asking for their experiences. You will find some of the results up until this morning in previous posts and on the comment threads. Here is a selection of the latest material, following another story summarising all this in the Crikey email today.

From James Hunter of Metford, New South Wales:

Reading the email from Greg Baxter  contained  in your Crikey article today; one thing that amazed me was his use of “Ect.ect.” How any organisation can progress someone to the position of “Director Corporate Affairs” whose command of the  English language is such that  within a serious piece of  communication they either  have to resort to Junior High School  padding or have so little regard for the intellect of the intended recipient that they feel they can get away with it  is beyond my comprehension.

From a former reporter from News Limited Community Newspapers:

I worked for Quest Community Newspapers (up in Qld) from 1995 to 1998. I never saw a code of conduct.
From a former Herald Sun reporter:
I worked at the Herald Sun for about five years and I don’t recall
seeing the Code of Conduct anywhere although it may have come with the
induction folder. (I’ve put my documents away so I’m not sure if I
still have it.)
I certainly remember the Internet Code of Conduct which I think was
separate. Maybe they were one and the same thing and I only recall
reading the Internet section because I was most interested in those
rules.
In the last few years, the Internet Code of Conduct was displayed
quite prominently in our newsroom after some minor scandal with
internet behaviour.

Could phone hacking be going on at the Herald Sun. I certainly didn’t
hear about anything like that. I think most people relied on sources
and gossip and the like for stories. However, the increasingly
sensational celebrity-focussed stories suggest there was a potential
for that to happen in the future. Simon Pristel thinks he’s competing
against every newspaper in the country including the Tele and the
Sunday Herald Sun. Witness, his ”stealing” the baby zebra pics and
competition idea from the Geelong Advertiser last week. It all seems
so insignificant and trivial but that’s where this sort of thing
starts. However, I doubt that it will evolve now given the disaster in
the UK.
As for paying police or sources for information? I don’t know if you
have to pay people here. Some people like to see their handiwork in
the papers. They want to be players.

From a former journalist at The Australian
I think Baxter is right about News recruits being given a copy of the code – when I took a job at The Australian a few years ago, in amongst the many brochures I received about News Ltd’s zero emissions initiatives and god knows what else, there was a copy of the code. The induction packs went to everyone who started at The Aus with me but no idea if journos at the News community/metro titles get them too, nor how new the policy of handing the codes out with other paperwork is. There’s also a copy hanging on at least one noticeboard at the Holt St offices (or there was when I was around). Of course, whether anyone actually reads the code is another question…
But another former journo from The Australian tells a different story:

I worked at The Australian as a sub-editor and reporter for just over two years, 2005-2007. In that time I never saw the News Ltd code of conduct. As a union member, I had the AJA’s wallet-sized COC. I showed it to…a senior reporter at The Australian…He said he’d never seen it and in fact sneered at many of the tenets included, including the one about identifying yourself as a journalist. He has since featured on mediawatch more than once.

That’s it for the moment. Next post, my response to the latest correspondence from Baxter.

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