Two of the ABC’s most experienced journalists, Sarah Ferguson and Tony Jones, have been filming in Kyiv in recent days for a Four Corners program, Despair and Defiance, to air on Monday. Also at the ABC, investigative reporter Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop and digital reporter Emily Clark have been filing from Ukraine in recent days following on from reporting by Nick Dole and Isabella Higgins, Tom Joyner and David Lipson.
Seven News chief reporter Chris Reason is one of the few Australian journalists who has been based in the capital Kyiv for several weeks now despite the obvious danger. SBS News chief international correspondent Ben Lewis spent seven weeks in Kyiv before returning to London to see his wife who is in her third trimester of pregnancy.
Nine News has also devoted considerable resources to covering the conflict, sending Europe correspondent Carrie-Anne Greenbank in the lead-up to the invasion, and now senior reporter Mark Burrows and US correspondent Amelia Adams are on the ground in Ukraine. Ten News has journalist Ursula Heger filing from Ukraine.
Reaso, as Chris Reason is known, told the Weekly Beast he initially went to London to report on the Queen’s illness but he had packed his boots, medical kit and winter gear just in case he needed to be deployed to Ukraine, where colleagues Sarah Greenhalgh and Geoff Parry had been reporting.
He has been in Kyiv for four weeks now, along with cameraman Simon Hydzik, fuelled by “borscht and a Nescafé Blend 43 Americano”. “What is happening cannot be covered by remote reporting, it needs eyes on the ground,” Reason told the Weekly Beast. “Independent, free and fair journalism is never more important than in life and death matters like war. Ukraine is crying out for help – and the world is responding.”
Reason said he doesn’t count himself as one of the journalists on the real frontline – such as the team that Associated Press has in Mariupol – and the Seven crew is positioned with “multiple exit routes”.
A rooftop piece to camera which aired this week on Seven News has stunned audiences. Reason says it was the result of the “genius drone work” of Hydzik. “It’s so difficult to capture the size and scope of a disaster sometimes, but with his equipment (and skill), it was possible,” he said on Friday. “And by doing that, you help deliver into Australian lounge rooms just a fraction of the horror that’s happening over here: the viewer gets to see and feel what it’s like. If we can make someone stop for just a moment and think about the profound sorrow behind this conflict, then we have done our job as a news crew.”
Oz scarred by criticism
When you criticise News Corp Australia you can expect swift retribution, as a former reporter for the Australian, Lanai Scarr, discovered this week. Scarr, the political editor of the West Australian, dared to criticise the Oz for its reporting of domestic abuse in relation to Kumanjayi Walker.
Despite softening her criticism by saying the Oz was a “great paper”, Weekly Beast understands Scarr received more than one furious, accusatory email from the Australian.
The Australian’s editor-in-chief, Christopher Dore, has defended the paper’s recent coverage, which was labelled a national disgrace by Indigenous journalists.
The tone of the coverage has shocked regular readers of the Oz who say the paper’s long-serving Northern Territory correspondent Amos Aikman has a good reputation for covering Indigenous issues, as does the Indigenous affairs correspondent Paige Taylor.
The Weekly Beast understands it was no accident Aikman’s byline was nowhere near other reportage that has been criticised as graphic and insensitive.
Age of enlightenment
Lawyer and human rights advocate Nyadol Nyuon was appalled when she read in the Weekly Beast last week that Age editor Gay Alcorn was poised to hire Claire Lehmann, the founding editor of rightwing online magazine Quillette.
Nyuon, an Age columnist who has been described as “a beacon of light, truth and wisdom” by readers, said the news was her “notice to get out” and announced her intention to leave on Twitter.
Many Age and Sydney Morning Herald journalists were also unhappy about management’s decision to approach Lehmann, who has argued that journalists exist in a social and professional “bubble” and are not open to publishing or reading alternative views.
Lehmann, who has a regular column in Murdoch’s the Australian and appeared on Q+A last week, has been described as the voice of the “intellectual dark web” for her critique of feminism and the left.
With criticism raging on Twitter, some readers cancelled subscriptions. Amid staff anger in newsrooms in Sydney and Melbourne, Alcorn and Sydney Morning Herald editor Bevan Shields sent a memo to staff on Tuesday defending the move as “part of our mission to publish a wide range of views in opinion, and [we] will continue to do so”.
“We did talk to Claire and she has decided to stay with the Australian,” Alcorn and Shields told staff of Lehmann’s rebuff.
Alcorn told the Weekly Beast that Nyuon “did not speak to us about her concerns” before she tweeted but “she is a beautiful writer and an important voice and we wish her all the best”.
When Nine bought Fairfax Media in 2016 the idea was to merge some of the country’s strongest brands to create Australia’s biggest media company. Nine already owned streaming service Stan when it added the mastheads the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald to the group.
This week three divisions of Nine Entertainment – print, TV and streaming – teamed up to unveil the first truly multi-platform project, an original documentary slate for Stan: Revealed.
Revealed’s first project takes the award-winning reporting of journalist Nick McKenzie, an undercover investigation he did for 60 Minutes on Nazis in Australia, and creates an original feature film directed by Bentley Dean.
Amongst Us – Neo Nazi Australia will air on Stan on 27 March. McKenzie, who won two Walkley awards last month for the Nazi story on 60 Minutes, told the Weekly Beast the film is a separate entity.
He said there was so much great material that didn’t fit the formula of a 60 Minutes or a Four Corners, and the Stan film has no narrator, more undercover scenes and is beautifully directed by Dean.
The Northern Territory may do things differently to the rest of Australia, but for the Sunday Territorian editor, Phillippa Butt, there was one thing she couldn’t abide: Michael Gunner’s mullet. Butt called on the chief minister to “get rid of the mullet”.
“We’re trying to be taken seriously,” Butt wrote. “And part of that is dressing appropriately and looking the part.”