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SA media's depressing numbers, late Labor man's reputation unravels

Notes on Adelaide

In today’s Notes On Adelaide column: the impending loss of decades of local journalism experience and allegations multiply about a lauded former Labor insider’s past.

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By the numbers: SA media’s impending losses

The ABC’s tortuous retrenchment process is reaching an end with three senior journalists in Adelaide fighting for their future at the national broadcaster.

Meanwhile, a similarly convoluted process at News Corp, publisher of The Advertiser, Sunday Mail and Messenger newspapers, will come to a close before the end of the month, with the state’s biggest newsroom set to be reshaped – again.

According to the journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), six graphic artists will be made redundant – two of them forced – along with four photographers, again with two of them forced.

A pool of 16 sub-editors was identified for redundancy: at this stage, six of these will be redeployed elsewhere in the company and three will go full-time to Pagemasters – the production house owned by AAP which will sell editing services back to News Corp.

However the final numbers flow through by June 29 – the date when the redundancies come into force – the MEAA says News Corp is set to lose decades of experience as part of a move to refocus shrinking resources on digital reporting.

At the ABC, the three staff identified for redundancy are vastly experienced in the newsroom: Paul Kish, David Eccles and former SA Media Awards Journalist of the Year winner Mike Sexton.

The ABC insists there are serious “redeployment” opportunities that will be open to all staff identified for redundancies across the country, also as part of a move to focus more tightly on digital news.

An ABC spokesperson said 25 positions would be advertised soon at the same level of seniority as the redundant roles.

“We can’t speak about individual arrangements regarding notification of redundancy and redeployment, but if employees elect redeployment we treat that election genuinely and follow a robust and documented process to ensure we explore with them any opportunities,” the spokesperson.

MEAA state secretary Angelique Ivanika said it wasn’t clear whether jobs available for redeploying staff would be in Adelaide.

She also questioned the ABC’s motives for targeting experienced staff for redundancy.

“I see a big culture change coming to the ABC, sadly,” Ivanika said. “One of the ways you change culture is to remove people in that culture who are senior and respected.”

Compare and contrast

The late writer Bob Ellis, long-time Labor fellow traveller, is the subject of serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

Ellis, who died in 2016, was a friend to many senior Labor figures across the country and had a close relationship with the party in South Australia during the Rann years.

He was a sometimes paid speechwriter to Mike Rann when he was Premier and produced a documentary about Labor’s landslide 2006 state election victory, Run, Rabbit, Run.

But a piece published in the Weekend Australian detailed allegations of sexual crimes.

Writer Dorothy Hewett’s daughters Rozanna and Kate have named Ellis among a number of Australian arts figures who sexually exploited them as children in the 1970s.

Imre Salusinszky, a journalist and former adviser to NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird, pointed out following the allegations that the response had been muted compared to that afforded to senior Catholic figures.

Writer Claire Corbett took to Twitter after the weekend’s allegations to claim that Ellis subjected her to the “worst sexual harassment I ever received”.

Poet Bronwyn Lea said Ellis was a misogynist whose abuse of women wasn’t an “open secret, just open”.

Another writer, Sarah Holland-Blatt, told a similar story.

There’s no evidence that local Labor figures were aware of the kind of behaviour alleged above. However, it still raises questions as to why Labor continued to keep Ellis close given some of his openly-held opinions.

For example, in a piece published in 2011, and still available on the ABC website, Ellis mocked allegations about a young woman at the Australian Defence Force Academy who accused a fellow cadet of secretly filming her in the shower.

“So women, it seems, are tough enough for service on any battlefront but not tough enough to be peeked at in the shower,” he wrote. “For the latter they need compassionate leave, counselling in depth, back pay and five parliamentary enquiries.”

Also in 2011 on the ABC website, Ellis complained that “wowser feminism” had gone too far when International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn lost his job after his arrest on sexual assault charges.

Along the way, he appeared to diminish the sexual misconduct of a range of Left-leaning figures (Bill Clinton, he wrote, was “impeached for denying sex with a fleshy teenager”).

“Why are deeds long common at office Christmas parties used by women to ruin good men’s careers?” he complained.

His views were sometimes challenged in public – including in articles in response on the ABC website – but, at his death, he was more commonly presented as a lovable rogue than anything more sinister.

Notes On Adelaide is a new column telling the inside stories of Adelaide people, institutions and issues. If you have information that you believe should be noted in this column, send us an email: editorial@solsticemedia.com.au

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