Friday, February 15, 2013

Grattan And Rudd: This Isn't A Conversation, It's An Obsession

As political editor of The Age, Michelle Grattan was obliged to cover the broad spectrum of events in Australian politics. Her brief was not to pick and choose what she wrote about, but rather to decide how to interpret and report the events of the day, every day, whatever they may be.

But last week, Grattan left The Age to take on a teaching role with The University Of Canberra. At the same time, she signed on with independent news & opinion website The Conversation as an associate editor and their chief political correspondent.

Yes, Michelle Grattan has entered the blogosphere. And, as new bloggers are wont to do, she has embraced her new-found editorial freedom by writing about what really, really interests her.

Sadly, that seems to boil down to two words: Kevin Rudd.

In the five days thus far that Grattan has been writing for The Conversation, Grattan has published five articles. All five are (to some degree) about Labor, and all five are less than complimentary.

Four of the five mention Rudd.

Article one, A Fresh Start To An Important Political Year, is ostensibly Grattan’s introduction to The Conversation. Yet it focuses primarily on Julia Gillard and her government, and is unable to list a positive without countering with a negative. And in the third paragraph, even before any mention of Gillard or Labor, we get this:

“Of course, in a parliament where the unexpected is the expected, that could change – for instance, if Kevin Rudd were to achieve the Herculean challenge of seizing the leadership.”

Article two, Not So Super Profits Tax Has Labor In A Bind, is more overtly critical of Labor and their apparently-underperforming mining tax. But Grattan sets the tone of her article in the opening paragraph:

“In a notable bookending, the mining tax that helped destroy Kevin Rudd’s leadership late last term is causing Julia Gillard serious budgetary and political problems as she heads towards the election.”

Grattan also uses treasurer Wayne Swan to reiterate the bad blood:

“Rudd bitterly blamed Swan for the vicious reaction to the original tax from the mining sector, because there was not enough consultation beforehand.”

And comments from government whip Joel Fitzgibbon are reported as a backlash from “Fitzgibbon, a Rudd supporter”.

Article three, Rudd Puts Gillard And Swan In His Sights Over The Mining Tax, is pure cheerleader material for Rudd. The inconvenient fact that Rudd publicly backed Labor to win the September election under the Prime Minister’s leadership was buried by Grattan deep in the article, well after revisiting the events that had “destroyed” his leadership and labelling the tax a “fiasco” (a point of view not necessarily shared by all political commentators).

Article four, The Paucity Of Information Overload, is the only article of the five that makes no mention of Rudd. It’s essential a reprint of part of a speech given by Professor Robert Picard (from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism), but is bookended (to use a Grattan expression) by references to the Prime Minister and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, and their unwillingness to “upset” the media companies.

And finally, article five, An Adrenaline Charged Rudd Increases Pressure On Gillard, is 100% leadership speculation. Nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing in the article that explains exactly how or why Rudd is “adrenaline-charged”; in fact, there were no new facts or events since Grattan’s earlier Rudd missive, three days earlier. This is simply a case of Grattan warming to her favourite subject and writing about it with impunity, with such pearls as:

“If Kevin Rudd were to wrest the prime ministership back from Julia Gillard”


“Rudd’s bid has revived on the back of the impression of government “chaos””


“Rudd knew that… he was directly undermining the leadership.”

It’s pretty clear that Grattan, freshly released from the shackles of the mainstream media, is indulging herself and, it has to be said, writing these articles largely for herself. And while it seems incongruous that I, a blogger for only three years, could possibly hope to offer advice to Grattan, a political journalist with over 40 years in the industry, I feel compelled to say this:

Michelle, if you keep writing articles based on what you want to read, rather than the actuality of events that are unfolding around us daily, then you may as well pack it in now. Bloggers rise and fall on their integrity and willingness to question; to ignore the truth is to doom yourself to irrelevance.

Sadly, it may already be too late.


  1. well written, very pointed and precise. As a blogger of some 10+ years I can honestly say that yes, we all do write for ourselves, regardless of what we might hope to attract by way of readership. Michelle needs to take a good hard look at why she is so obviously obsessed with Kevin Rudd and move past that obsession. Irrelevance, as a blogger, is but one post away.

  2. Not good news for The Conversation. I wondered how Grattan's journalistic love affair with Tony Abbott and kevin Rudd - and her obvious dislike of Julia Gillard - would fit in with the aims of this blog. A little objectivity would go a long way.

  3. I salute you for actually reading her articles. (Excuse me, I just had a little vomit in my mouth.) For the sake of my health, I stopped a long time ago.

  4. Let's hope that The Conversation doesn't develop its own political line. Its virtue has been independent research and thinking as the source of opinion. The advent of columnists is a concern. Hopefully it won't become an pseudo-academic version of the Global Mail.

  5. The medium may be different but the expectations are still the same. Grattan has joined The Conversation presumably because they want her experience as a political journalist. What's published in large mainstream 'blog sites like The Conversation, The Drum, et al, have to go at least a little bit beyond the "here's what I reckon" standard that's acceptable in self-published 'blogs.

  6. The problem is our own expectation. We incorrectly assumed a few things. The first that Grattan was being corralled into writing the rubbish in her old job and the second was that she would magically become better than she actually is.

    Grattan has long since given up any pretense of conducting any kind of political analysis based on facts.

    It is opinionated rubbish that a young cadet journalist would be admonished for daring to hand up.