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The Australian

Aug 4, 2009

Previewing news yet to happen

In the wee hours of this morning four men were arrested during a series of police raids around Melbourne. These t

In the wee hours of this morning four men were arrested during a series of police raids around Melbourne. These terrorism-related raids seem to have been reported by The Australian some three hours before they even occurred.

It’s still unclear how The Australian came to know about the raids in advance, although if they knew that the raids weren’t scheduled until a certain time then they would surely be aware that running the story before that time could jeopardise the operation.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the police and the media: the police want their success publicised so the public can rest assured that in matters of terrorism “they” are doing “something”, and the media want immediate access to all the details of big, juicy stories like terrorism arrests to attract eyeballs to ads.

A generous reading of the balls-up might be that The Oz made a grave but genuine error in its production process. A cynical reading might be that it deliberately broke embargo (imposed by the information source or self-imposed by the editorial team) for scoop value. But when something like this occurs, putting at serious risk the very success that the cops want to brag about, surely the nature of that symbiotic relationship must be questioned.

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7 comments

7 thoughts on “Previewing news yet to happen

  1. Toaf

    I’d missed this today, Scott. Interesting situation indeed. Is this normal practice gone wrong, or something new for News Ltd?

  2. PeeBee

    Interestlying that the editor of The Oz implied Overland was upset about the early publishing of the story because it didn’t mention the Victorian Police enough….. is he for real?

  3. Sisyphis

    I went to Glenroy this morning (apparently the scene of one or more of the raids) on one of Lynne Kosky’s (late as usual) cattle trucks.

    Despite media “we’ll all be rooned, bombed and deaded” hype it was an uneventful trip.

    Guess the AFP had all the Connex ticket inspectors and the breathless Oz reporter in custody.

    Phew!

  4. silverbilby

    No guns, no bombs, no evidence. Just a few ignorant peasants talking tough. Freedom of speech is long gone in Australia. Australian troops have repeatedly killed innocent civilians in Afganistan in recent months. As an ex-army serviceman I am ashamed to admit we are the real terrorists. Its interesting to note the whole media circus was pre-planned to the extent that the Australian wrote about it as though it had happened- when it in fact it had not. This is all the proof we need to see through this pre-planned media sham, that is designed to scare and divide us before the early election Rudd will announce in the next few weeks. Rudd is a highly educated man who knows how to run the media. The oldest imperialistic trick off all is to divide and conquer.

  5. phyllis stein

    The talk back show in question also mentioned that 4 or 5 taxis have been recently reported stolen , (a theoretical link between taxi drivers, terrorists, access to the army base…) and I had the image of night shift taxi drivers being the first to glimpse the Australian at 1.30 am as they were being delivered. Surely this publication was a risk to the security of the raids.

  6. confessions

    I’m so glad you put this up! This was on talkback this morning driving into work and obviously hit a button with teh laura norder types who dominated callers, all bagging the newspaper for potentially compromising a serious intelligence operation. If it had been the ABC or fairfax the Australian would be jumping up and down with the very same argument!

    Meanwhile the Australian responds.

    In a complex logistical exercise, The Australian held back its coverage of the raids until later editions of the newspaper, which were not available for sale until after the raids, and altered its online publishing schedule to ensure Cameron Stewart’s exclusive reports did not appear on The Australian’s website, or anywhere else on the internet, until the raids had begun.

    Complex logistical exercise is now editor-speak for delaying publication both in print and on line. SPIN, SPIN, SPIN.

  7. Ben Callinan

    On ABC this morning Jon Faine interviewed the journo who wrote the story and then crossed live to the assorted cops’ press conference.

    The journo claimed that the Oz had known about the story for a while, contacted the cops and agreed to delay publication of the story until the “mid-morning” edition to ensure that it was not published before the raids. After further questions he admitted that he didn’t know the time the raids would be made and that the “mid-morning” edition was actually the 1.30am edition.

    Overland commented that the cops were very unhappy that news of the raid was leaked, but once the cat was out of the bag, the AFP attempted damage control and negotiated with the Oz to delay publication. Overland also pointed out some inaccuracies in the published story.

    Having recently rewatched the excellent Phoenix serieses on DVD, my bet is a stuff up by the Plastic Fantastics.