January 21, 2004


The tragic death of David Hookes is enormous and heartbreaking news, across Australia and all around the world.

Yet one Australian news service -- the one completely funded by Australian taxpayers -- didn’t think so. Following is an internal memo sent yesterday by ABC national editor John Cameron to his network’s radio stations:

We had a prime example in some states today of failing to recognise a big news story when it happens.

By any objective journalistic reasoning, the David Hookes story is one of impact. As the saying goes, it would be the most talked about yarn of the day on the streets. It has literal shock value.

It happened late, and wasn't in the papers. More than a million Australians were hearing about it for the first time from their ABC radio news bulletins.

Why, then, would we relegate it to a down-bulletin position - in some states as low as 10th item in the main bulletins? Some states did not even use the story in some bulletins. Given that many (if not most) listeners hear just the one bulletin, this meant that the story was missed altogether.

Some states headlined the story, but didn't actually name Hookes, or even capture the story's dramatic nature in the headline. Only two states used the story as the lead in their main bulletins. While it may be marginally debatable that the story should have been at the head of every bulletin all morning, it should certainly have been in the top two in every bulletin.

We have done ourselves a great disservice. I understand Melbourne handled the story promptly and well, so the problem didn't rest there. I'd ask individual newsrooms to discuss how they handled the story, and why they did it that way.

John Cameron
National Editor.

I’d ask why the ABC employs as journalists people so completely lacking in empathy for the interests of their audience that they didn’t instantly recognise the importance of this story. In fact, how can anybody who omitted Hookes’s name or who failed to mention his death in news bulletins even be called a journalist?

(This isn’t the first time a Cameron memo has leaked. In August it was revealed that Cameron had requested ABC journalists not to refer to Australian troops as "our troops" in reports from Iraq. He’s on more solid ground with the Hookes complaint. Incidentally, my ABC leakers -- there were several -- share Cameron’s outrage.)

Posted by Tim Blair at January 21, 2004 02:47 AM

So, what is this about? It's a class issue, I assume, similar to how the NPR station in Boston gives scores for baseball but not hockey, even when the Bruins are in the playoffs and the Sox in spring training?

I'm curious what the dimensions of this are. Would the ABC "people so completely lacking in empathy for the interests of their audience" have paid more interest to a different sport or do they frown on the whole subject?

Posted by: Otter at January 21, 2004 at 03:36 AM

The memo seems to confirm my view that the ABC is nowhere near as bad in WA as it appears to be in other states. I woke up yesterday to the news of his bashing on ABC local radio, and followed the story through to the 7pm news on telly where it was the lead item with three stories.

Posted by: Gareth at January 21, 2004 at 03:40 AM

You mean "ABC leakers", not "ABC leakees".

That is, unless you have literally taken to pissing on their heads? :)

Posted by: akpm at January 21, 2004 at 03:44 AM

Correct, akpm. Will fix.

Posted by: tim at January 21, 2004 at 03:45 AM

I'm shocked since my experience in Australia was that cricket was the one sport the whole country paid attention to with equal enthusiasm (The other exception being the Melbourne cup, perhaps). Why some idiot would try and regionalize it and down play is beyond me.

Posted by: matt at January 21, 2004 at 03:54 AM

For those of us Stateside: What's a "king hit?"

Posted by: Crid at January 21, 2004 at 05:11 AM

I'd ask why the AB frigging C even exists in the first place. They don't have a clue, except when pandering to their lefty mates albeit at 12% ratings. Privatise the stinking old whore whilst she is still worth something! Many Australians have had a gutful of funding this disgraceful network without having any say in the matter.

Posted by: Kate at January 21, 2004 at 06:15 AM

Easy, Tim. Journalists are advanced, intelligent, Important People. Thus they cannot be bothered with the petty interests of the proletariat, like "sport".

Important People have perhaps pity and condescension for the proles, not empathy or even sympathy.

Posted by: Sigivald at January 21, 2004 at 07:39 AM

"We have done ourselves a great disservice."

I'm a layman, but shouldn't that rather read, "We have done our listeners a great disservice"?

Posted by: Ken Begg at January 21, 2004 at 07:49 AM

Crid: A "king hit" can either be a knock-out blow or, more commonly, a forcible punch delivered without warning.
For example "As soon as the pastor had turned his back, Howard king hit him with a half-brick." Hope that clears things up.

Posted by: Fidens at January 21, 2004 at 08:12 AM

Triple J radio carried the Hookes story as its lead. At least in yesterday morning's 6:00am and 6:30am news that I heard.

Posted by: Jethro at January 21, 2004 at 08:19 AM

I first learned on Hooke's death on BBC On-line.

Posted by: Walter Plinge at January 21, 2004 at 08:41 AM

clearly a lot of Melbournians have not had enough of the local ABC radio as it regularly nears, occasionally tops, Hooksie's station 3AW in ratings.

yes, i agree that it's unusual that all ABC stations nationally would not see the value in running the story higher, but as a few here have noted, it may not be entirely accurate in its propositions either. on the whole, i am happy with the service that the ABC provides.

by the way, 3AW are running a condolence book which will be presented to the family. you can e-mail: hooksie@3aw.com.au. not sure if the hooksie spelling is correct as i'm only hearing it on radio. that would seem to be the accepted spelling.

Posted by: chico o'farrill at January 21, 2004 at 08:53 AM


The other morning in Sydney, ABC Radio's 7.45am bullie led with a yarn on "right-wing protesters" in Israel cancelling a rally (or some such event).

About item number seven came the story that several people had been shot by a sniper carrying an air rifle in south-west Sydney!!

The Daily Tele splashed with the sniper.

I'm probably quicker to jump to Aunty's defence than many on Tim's site but when will ABC Radio news in Sydney realise we don't live in Israel?!

Posted by: BH at January 21, 2004 at 09:04 AM

The 7.30 Report, to its credit, ran a very sympathetic story on Hookes' death.

Posted by: bongoman at January 21, 2004 at 09:10 AM

yes it is terrible!

sport is the only thing that keeps the barbarians within from hacking us all together like they do in other value based cultures

Posted by: dolebludger at January 21, 2004 at 10:08 AM

hacking us to bits - i meant

interesting slip though

Posted by: dolebludger at January 21, 2004 at 10:10 AM

I cannot agree with this memo. Discussing the death of a cricketing legend is clearly inflammatory behaviour, designed to ostracise those Australians from abroad who do not share in your joy of the game, much like celebrations of the Christmas season in the classroom.

Such media coverage is the sort of thing that breeds the resentment that causes terrorism.

Posted by: ABC Al at January 21, 2004 at 10:53 AM

An example of public-funded media not carrying a story which is against their own interests is the huge outcry last year from Sydney's Vietnamese community against SBS broadcasting propaganda news from Vietnam. This culminated in a demonstration by 13,000 Vietnamese Australians outside the SBS studios in Artarmon - a large demonstration by Sydney standards, but not covered bt the ABC or SBS, although both proport to be multicultural. SBS was forced to back down over the issue.

Needless-to-say, this story didn't make Media Watch.

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at January 21, 2004 at 11:18 AM

Quit complaining about the Australian press, will you Tim.

They are obviously a lot smarter than you or me. In fact, they are so good that they are reporting on what George Bush said in his State of the Union Address, well before he has actually delivered it.

Posted by: Alex Robson at January 21, 2004 at 11:30 AM


That's easy enough to explain; some bugger at the Whitehouse leaked it to Reuters through the Whitehouse web-site.

Posted by: Gummo Trotsky at January 21, 2004 at 11:38 AM

Christ, what a dumb post!

I for one only listen to the ABC and I was fully informed about the Hookes killing before I got to work that morning.

So not only is this bullshit, it's also a pretty low act to use these tragic circumstances to further your own very petty agenda.

Yuck. Smelly.

Posted by: Nemesis at January 21, 2004 at 12:02 PM

My agenda? The memo is from an ABC editor, idiot.

Posted by: tim at January 21, 2004 at 12:03 PM

Damn that ABC.
If more of their frigging 12% audience had known of Hoooksie's plight earlier then maybe he would still be alive.

Posted by: Sincerity Slips at January 21, 2004 at 12:07 PM

"Yuck. Smelly."

Ask your nursie to change your diapers (I believe you call them "nappies") more often.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at January 21, 2004 at 12:18 PM

Man, I'm a Yank - a football-crazed Texan, moreover - and I had heard about this a couple of days ago.

This is pretty typical of the left, at least over here. They romanticize "low culture" and "alternative means of expression utilized by those otherwise ground up in the hegemonic McDonalds of elites". But just try to get them to actually, you know, actually listen/watch the stuff.

I mean, there's nothing more fun at a party than a gentleman dressed in tweed loudly proclaiming "I don't even own a TV!".

Posted by: Steve in Houston at January 21, 2004 at 12:32 PM

Cripes, the Alliance of Broadcasting Communists wouldn't want to elicit sympathy for someone who referred to "some hairy-backed shiela".

Posted by: slatts at January 21, 2004 at 12:56 PM

“Would the ABC … have paid more interest to a different sport or do they frown on the whole subject?”

The ABC gives way too much coverage (ie any) to netball, an over-regulated version of women’s basketball designed to give everyone a turn at touching the ball – no wonder the ABC likes it.

And it’s the only network that covers Women’s Cricket (US readers don’t laugh, there is such a thing). The only interesting story ever about women’s cricket was the one about the conspiracy not to select straight women in the Australian team. Apparently they’re all lesbians, imagine the 'prawn ‘n’ porn' nights!

Posted by: matt at January 21, 2004 at 01:00 PM

FitzSimons wrote a great article on Hookes

Posted by: LD at January 21, 2004 at 01:11 PM

geezus louise!

the ABC featured an excellent, long, funny interview with Hooksie immediately following the record-breaking chase in Newcastle last week.

being the generous hearted bloke he was, he didn't particularly care to make distinctions about whom he spoke to when it was about things he loved.

3AW have been running Best Of Hooksy/Hooksie nightly this week from 6.00pm to 8.00 pm leading in & out of the ad breaks...christ i'll miss him.....he was a one-off.

Posted by: chico o'farrill at January 21, 2004 at 01:46 PM

This is kind of like the six degrees of Tim Blair. Take any newsworthy subject, and see how many steps it takes TB to gravitate back to an attack on the ABC, left-wing journalists, non-conservative politicans or the UN.

Except it never takes six steps.

Posted by: Mork at January 21, 2004 at 02:25 PM

I can't agree that the ABC is down on sport. On the contrary, that's all they do broadcast - especially on radio. At the first sign of summer each year, the ABC cancels all programs and replaces them with hours of sport. No code is too insignificant to be covered. The ABC obviously believes that the last thing viewers/listeners want is to be stirred from their summer torpor by anything intellectually or culturally provocative or stimulating!

In fact, sport is the ABC's crutch - an excuse to avoid imaginative programming, new initiatives and lateral thinking about new developments. It's all part of the intellectual laziness and mediocrity that pervades the organisation.

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at January 21, 2004 at 02:26 PM

So what exactly is the problem? Some states misjudged the level of importance of the story in the first instance, and didn't place it as a lead story that evening. The memo doesn't say anything about how it was treated the next morning, so it seems that the problem is that its news value was briefly underestimated by some states. OK so that's a mistake, and John Cameron has asked each state to take a good look at themselves and learn from their mistake. That's good Isn't it?

People make mistakes Timbo. But your fanatic hatred of the ABC seems to blind you to this fact. Missing the importance of this news item does not demonstrate that the ABC is biased, and does not demonstrate that Taxpayer funds are being mispent. It just demonstrates that it employs Journalist who are human, and they sometimes make mistakes.

I take it Tim that you never make mistakes!


Posted by: Rex at January 21, 2004 at 02:28 PM


I strongly agree with Matt's comments about netball and women's cricket. They also broadcast lawn bowls -which must rate well in the nursing homes. Is there anywhere else in the world where this is done? Only on everybody's (ie nobody's, because it's ours and we'll do what we like) ABC.

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at January 21, 2004 at 02:32 PM

It shows that ABC news people are out of touch with what most people think is important. (My uni major was in 'the bleeding obvious'). They are so busy trawling for or creating stories that suit their agenda that they miss things like this.

Posted by: matt at January 21, 2004 at 03:07 PM

UIt's a tregedy ya di da di da. But it doens't need massive crap like was on the news.

Basically I see it as more important that 100s of people die in a foreign country than one drunk ex-cricketer here

Posted by: A at January 21, 2004 at 03:28 PM

I know fuck-all about cricket or the late Mssr. Hookes, but the return of Lunchy, Mork and Rex Ringschott all at once just makes me happier than a pig in shit. Good times, y'all MFers! Judging by the array of Aunty defenders here, the ABC is clearly a force for evil, uncomfortable underpants wetness, and snarky comments.

Posted by: Dylan at January 21, 2004 at 04:17 PM

I bet the bastards didn't mention Bob Hope's passing at all. When the Government owns the news then the only news you will hear is what the Government wants you to hear.

But Ok the ABC is necessary because Australia is a very big sparsly populated continent. whole regions wouldn't be able to support a comercially viable radio or Television station at all, is this not right? What you need to do is make the director of programming an elected post and vote on the weasel in charge of hiring and firing the reporters and contributors. Then have him answerable to a ratings system polled from the Ozzie equivalent of Neilson familys. That is to say randomly selected families who rate the shows presented for quality and relevance to their lives.

Thats all I have to say.

Posted by: Papertiger at January 21, 2004 at 04:28 PM

Papertiger, you might be interested in this.

And senior appointments to the ABC are made by the government of the day, which, even here, is elected.

Posted by: Mork at January 21, 2004 at 04:37 PM

good points Tim.

Gee its sad news.

Posted by: Darren Rowse at January 21, 2004 at 05:09 PM

"Basically I see it as more important that 100s of people die in a foreign country than one drunk ex-cricketer here"

Then you must be particularly upset by their silence over the genocide of Sudanese Christians and Animists by the islamic government there.

Posted by: Clem Snide at January 21, 2004 at 07:37 PM

Had Hookes's attacker been some young Anglo-Celtic Aussie nobody, I'll warrant that the story would have been pushed through.

But as he was a Serb... well, it just doesn't do any good to brood over crime, does it? Better to just ignore it altogther. Maybe it will just go away, like the Muslim gangs in SW Sydney. How often have you seen stories on them featured prominently in the ABC?

Posted by: Mike Jericho at January 21, 2004 at 07:54 PM

Ya know, if the ABC isn't left wing, why does the left wing jump so readily to defend it?

I mean, gees guys, its only tv/radio.

I bet if Tim had a post mocking Channel 10 there would be a vast silence from lunchy and the rest.

Posted by: Quentin George at January 21, 2004 at 08:12 PM

Typical. Yet when one of their own dies, like Andrew Olle, you never hear the end of it.

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at January 21, 2004 at 09:56 PM

Blair youre a little boy. Noone except these other little boys take you seriously.

Run along.

Posted by: Sickening at January 22, 2004 at 06:46 AM

The guy who killed Hookes has breached Bail already

Posted by: red at January 22, 2004 at 08:46 AM

No he hasn't. It's another Herald Sun beat-up designed to convict the guy in the public mind before he ever gets anywhere near a jury. The cops say he's simply reporting to a different police station - one the Herald Sun isn't sitting outside with a photographer.

Talk about the ABC having an agenda! Ha!

Posted by: blue at January 22, 2004 at 09:24 AM

The most amazing aspect of John Cameron's[ABC National Editor] about the poor state coverage of the Hookes affair is the revelation that someone in the ABC actually monitors these things in non-Sydney states. Here in South Australia, I had always assumed that the ABC Newsrooms had a big bag into which they threw all the day's news [and yesterday's] & then picked them out from this bag willy-nilly, indiscriminately and quite blindly. You really mean that someone is supposed to be structuring them?... Does John Cameron ever listen to 5AN Adelaide?

Posted by: Michael Wichbold at January 22, 2004 at 11:12 AM