OK, before I get this rant off my chest I want to start off with a heads up. Gendered insults, abuse, party political partisanship and rubbish like that is NOT my thing and don’t even bother hitting me up with any of that on the comments below or on social media. There is never a place for it and if you can’t get your point across without resorting to that, you need to have a good hard think about yourself. Having said that, I would also like to note that valid criticism is NOT trolling. I will never condone trolling, but no-one regardless of their job, is ever above 'valid' criticism.

Right! About *that* Dan Andrews Victorian government press conference (06 August 2020) the first full day of the second lock down in Melbourne and stage 3 in Victoria…

Twitter went off. Not just twitter mind you, as I was flicking around Facebook and glancing at comments while the press conference was going, they were pretty bloody vocal on there as well.

If you have been living under a rock for the past few days, the drama was because three journalists in particular (quite a few had a crack)* in varying degrees, one more so than the other two badgered Dan Andrews about the quarantine breach issue (back in June) that most likely kicked off the second wave (or whatever you want to call it) that has gotten out of control and effectively put Melbourne and Victoria into a second lockdown of varying degrees.

There are many questions to be asked of this arrangement, what went wrong, who is responsible etc., etc. and there is now a COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry being held in Victoria, as there should be.

As a side note, this inquiry is important to ALL Australians as what happened in Victoria and where they find themselves now could have been ANY state. Governments at all levels outsource security, to pretend otherwise is just a joke and we have seen a variety of ‘private’ enterprise performing public services failures during this pandemic that I hope are not forgotten moving forward when the crisis is over, but that is a rant for another day. Not to mention humans are fallible, even without private security, there is no saying that Police, Corrections staff, Health staff or ADF could not have found themselves in a similar situation where a quarantine scenario was breached. To pretend otherwise is kidding yourself. We do need to get to the bottom of that and the information needs to be shared with all states so they can learn from it and adjust procedures to ensure they don’t find themselves in a similar deadly situation in future.

Unlike The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess I would hope that all parties involved actually turn up and participate in this Victorian inquiry, as the result of not learning from this debacle are just too deadly to consider. The Federal government not cooperating with the Ruby Princess inquiry is reprehensible and something they should be badgered about.

The failure of the Canberra Press Gallery to hold the Federal government, Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to account for their role in the Ruby Princess debacle in fact muddies the water even further when it comes to *that* Victorian press conference. As unfortunately Morrison & Dutton held a ‘cyber security’ press conference just before *that* press conference in Victoria so the stark difference in holding government to account – or not holding them to account at all, with the exception of one reporter who gave it a go, though not backed up by any of his press gallery colleagues – was fully on display.

In Canberra, Ruby Princess debacle – solo - question just shut down, journalists not too fazed by it.

In Victoria an hour or so later, over 20 minutes of questioning along the same quarantine line, from the same 3 journalists, getting pretty much the same answers. Monopolising the press conference. Which I will remind you again, was on the first day of a second lockdown.

Time and place is everything.

I probably would not have liked the same tantrum style tone used in the Victorian press conference had it been applied to the Canberra press conference, as that is just the way I roll, but would have had no issue with journalists tag-teaming to get some answers out of the Prime Minister or Minister Dutton. Ruby Princess has sailed – literally – and the crisis has abated in NSW (and the cases spread across the nation from that debacle) so would have been entirely appropriate and should have happened in my opinion. I would even argue it was past time these questions were put rigorously to Morrison and Dutton and obfuscation not accepted.

I don’t mention the above to play the “BUT WHAT ABOUT?” game, I am mentioning it to illustrate the importance of time and place for concerted questioning and scrutiny of a particular issue.

The Victorian press conference was a whole different kettle of fish.

It was NOT the time or place on the first day of a second lock down to monopolise and tag team the Premier about an issue that was just not particularly imperative on that particular day.

The Victorian lock down happened quickly. There was much confusion over who is an essential worker and can still go to work, who isn’t, what you are allowed to leave home for and many other issues, not all settled nor set in stone due the complicated nature of a lockdown and the speed at which it was applied.

Every person and business is different, with different needs, concerns, anger and anxieties. What they all have in common though is that most HAVE information needs, concerns, anxieties you name it and only solid information can help to alleviate that uncertainty to some degree at least.

You can’t expect journalists to anticipate every piece of information the public need to hear in a state of emergency as Victoria is experiencing, but you can sure as hell try to at least garner the top ten pieces of information off the Premier, Health staff etc., to inform the reading/viewing public.

Remember that #RightToKnow campaign? Yeah… well… That is what punters at home think is the journalists job, as in to inform them of what they need to know! A right to know if you will.

What the public needed to know on the very first day of a second lock down was real, operational information that affected how they go about their day to day lives!

I can only speak for those that I know and what their concerns were that needed addressing and could or should have been raised as questions at *that* press conference instead of the quarantine obsession:

  • Will I be fined by Police if I have to go outside my 5k zone to fill my script, the local chemist has run out and what if Police don’t believe me?
  • I am worried about Mother, she is not at the stage needing ‘care’ as such but if I go to see her is that considered a welfare check and ok for travelling outside 5k zone or am I putting her in more danger doing that? Who can I even call to find out? If I can’t, how do I find someone who can visit her and check on her?
  • I went to 3 different shops before lock down started and I still can’t find the special formula my baby needs and she will run out in a week, can I travel further to try to find it? Or are we going to have problems in shops and I need to go back to the paediatrician for advice? Can I even visit the paediatrician or my GP? OMG! With so many health workers getting virus, if my daughters chronic illness get worse is it even safe for me to take her to emergency?
  • My boss says I still have to come into work but that means I am getting home way after 8pm, will the late train and bus even still be working, will I get in trouble if I am out at 10pm by time get home? He has given me a letter saying I can and I need the money as a casual but…
  • My daughter and her husband run their own business and think they are essential workers but their childcare doesn’t agree they fit that category, as a grandparent who works part-time but has been laid off I can go over and look after my two grandchildren but they are 25k away, am I allowed to do that? If I am, should I as I am in that older more at risk category is it too dangerous to do that? Risking myself and my husband?

Those above are paraphrased and just a few of the discussions I have had with friends. There are many many more… THESE are the sort of questions the readers/viewers of media were concerned about on day 1 of the second lockdown. Real, operational questions that directly affect lives, here and now!

It is not realistic that journalists could anticipate every single question that their readers/viewers may have had but they sure as hell could have at least gone for a top 10 FFS!

What they didn’t need was more agro, drama and questioning over whether Dan Andrews should be answering more questions about quarantine breaches that occurred over a month ago. One or two, fine, but what we saw was incessant.

As I listened to that press conference I was flabbergasted. Imagine that sort of focus in any other emergency? Bushfires, cyclones, mass shootings, hell! in Brisbane floods?

Yes, we understand that you are shitting yourself about whether water will be rushing down on your property and potentially killing you, or you are stressed the river will rise above predicted levels and you will be trapped in your home and drown, but hey! I have a chance to be a hero and get a scoop here, let’s focus on why water was released from the dam last week, who is responsible?

In my above scenario – which thankfully did not happen and journalists focus was on the imminent danger to the public - Yes, there was an inquiry into said dam release, yes there were very hard questions asked, law suits and the like and yes those bloody hard questions should have been asked as required, badgering politicians to get answers for the public. BUT NOT WHILE THE BLOODY WATER IS RUSHING TOWARDS PUNTERS!

This is my biggest issue.

While journalists circle the wagons to protect their own and castigate the public who are unhappy about *that* press conference they do themselves no favours.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone criticising *that* Victorian press pack and the 3 journalists in question are trolls, nor are they being political partisans, they are honestly pissed off they were let down by those who are supposedly there to garner information for them. Hell! I was angry and I am not in Victoria, just stressed and worried about friends who are and hearing their immediate concerns and anxiety.

Don’t even start me on the #IStandWithDan stuff. I sort of get it, the bloke has been under siege and some of it has been over the top and blatantly political and yeah, fans of Dan should feel pissed off that so many are undermining him for base political purposes and not being held to account for that, fair call, but FFS! He is a not a Rockstar, he is a politician. And a political party is not something that should be supported like a footy team. Yeah, personally I think he is doing probably the best job he can do in the circumstances thrust upon him and admire his resolve, but cmon...

Andrews and the Victorian government are not perfect, doubt anyone would or could be when faced with this current scenario they find themselves in. As an example I am still unhappy about the manner in which they lobbed a shitload of cops on those towers, the fact they had time to operationally organise that yet not to include some health and community support staff to help soften the blow and shock of suddenly being under siege? Yeah... Nah... I hope that response is addressed in the future as well.

So yeah, I get being supportive of Andrews and I get why there is the hashtag but some really do take the love of Dan Andrews too far.

Worse, this adoration gives those journalists who are more interested in circling the wagons around those in their fraternity than doing a professional job garnering information for the public, an excuse to write you off as a “Dan Stan” and not take your very valid concerns seriously.

Same as those who are abusive to journalists, it may only be a few and vast majority of people are legitimately ‘criticising’ but, same result, those few who are abusive give media an excuse to decry “OMG! I am being trolled relentlessly just for doing my job”, which conveniently gets them off the hook for any self-reflection at all to maybe consider they are not doing their job very well and certainly not in the immediate public interest?

I would like to take this opportunity to remind journalists that their profession is not only under siege from a changing business model perspective but also due to lack of public trust.

Journalists, This is your time to shine

This pandemic is your time to show how important you are, to give Joe & Jill at home the important information they need to get through this crisis. To prove you are more trustworthy and worth listening to more than bloody Karen or Sam on Facebook with their bullshit 5G or sovereign citizen crap. To illustrate how dangerous it is to not heed public health advice. Honestly, now is the time for you to garner more support in the community, be the go-to place for people to trust that you are on the ball, you are ensuring the government is aware of the public concerns and addressing them.

Hint: maybe a bit more scrutiny of those in leadership positions who are misleading or inciting people by their political grandstanding and endangering those they embolden to ignore public health advice might be a good thing to consider too? Just saying 🤷‍♀️

I don’t mean to sound cynical but it is true, this emergency in Victoria is honestly a perfect opportunity for journalism as a profession to redeem itself to a certain degree and regain a lot of public trust they have lost over the years.

Putting yourselves first, your potential for a ‘scoop’ or to suck up to an opposition party for a future Comms job or because your particular media org wants to play political silly buggers during a pandemic is NOT the way to ensure you even have a journalism profession in the future. Trashing and castigating your readers/viewers who are actually engaged in the media cycle sure as hell is NOT a good business model. I may only be a nobody, but Good Dog! Even I know that looking down on my clients and publicly disparaging them is sure as not going to get me future work? UGH!

I may only be a punter, just someone who consumes news and am not an expert on media, not even close. But I do know some things and one of them is COVID-19 DOES NOT GIVE A SHIT about your political views and opinions, it doesn’t give a shit about who is running Victoria, it could not care less if a particularly journo gets a ‘scoop’ on a government/business stuff up, it could not care less about whether Brett Sutton is the Chief Health Officer of Victoria – or he has nicked off the job to go to a Nickleback concert 😉

In all seriousness – and without yelling - this virus is dangerous, it needs to be treated as the most clear and present danger in this nation by both the media and the public – sadly it should be by all levels of government as well, though that is a rant for another day. The public can attempt to do a much better job at addressing it and lessening the impacts in death, future chronic illness, business failure and economic uncertainty by their actions IF they have good, quality, responsible public information they NEED to know, fed to them, every day until this crisis abates.

Time and place people, time and place is everything in a public health emergency!

As a very wise friend of mine said:

“The house is on fire! Who cares if it is was started by wiring installed by a dodgy contractor the developer hired, all we give a shit about at this very moment is getting that family out of that burning house safely and alive!”

Best of luck Victoria, take care, please, we are thinking of you 💜

*There was one Journalist who was very vocal, 2 others who tag-teamed her but also a number of others as well, pretty much was a 'scrum' and I have not named any for a specific reason. To be frank, when it comes to matters of such great importance like a public health emergency who and where people work for is irrelevant and not central to the point I am making in this rant. Information and the timely dissemination of trusted, needed, information matters. Full stop!

Those interested in wider issues of certain media organisations bias etc., which are entirely valid mind you, I’m sure can find further and more wide-ranging discussion on that aspect elsewhere.


Noely Neate
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Noely Neate
Talks too much on Twitter
Professional desk jockey
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