Choppergate: 3 sacked, boss quits
Posted August 25th, 2011 by debritz
Two journalists - Melissa Mallet and Cameron Price - and producer Aaron Wakeley have been sacked, and Channel Nine Queensland news director Lee Anderson has resigned over what's become known as the "choppergate" affair. (The Courier-Mail has the story here.)
The decision to broadcast twice from Mt Coot-tha while pretending to be on location "near Beerwah" clearly embarrassed Nine News, which is trying to reclaim its No. 1 status on the back of qualityand trustworthy reporting.
I have known Lee Anderson for a very long time (we met while studying journalism at different universities) and I have always known him to be a man of integrity and great ability. According to reports, Anderson was not on duty when the decision to fake the "live crosses" was made, but he has fallen on his sword - perhaps in protest at the sackings, as Channel 10's Hugh Riminton has suggested on Twitter. However, Nine's media release says the sackings happened "subsequently" to Anderson's resignation.
Update: Price has tweeted: "Thanks for all the support. I believe what happened today is completely unfair .. And I am seeking advice on the matter." Mallet has called it "a difficult day to fathom". (Thursday pm)
Update 2: Price's Twitter status has been changed to "Walkey and Clarion nominated Journo. With a clear conscience." (Friday am)
Exactly how the decisions to fake the crosses came to be made may never be known, but the incident highlights not just a lack of professional judgment and breach of ethics (by whom?), but also the pressures under which journalists operate. In the case of TV reporters, the mantra is to have "vision" at all costs.
As one of my Facebook friends wrote earlier tonight, will the spotlight now fall on the practices of some other TV news and current affairs reporters and producers?