Staff members at Fairfax Media have made sexual harassment / assault complaints against senior Fairfax Media employees and Fairfax management are covering it up. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn by the article published by Tracey Spicer on The Saturday Paper website and the questions that I sent Fairfax Media and their responses.
The Saturday Paper specifically points out they are not making the allegation of a cover-up by Fairfax Media but I do given Fairfax’s pathetic attempt to answer legitimate questions I emailed and Tweeted them today (3-7-18).
It’s pretty grubby stuff coming from a media organisation who are meant to be exposing this sort of problem but not to be unexpected given Seven West Media have one of the country’s biggest sexual predators in Tim Worner running the company fully supported by the even grubbier Chairman Kerry Stokes. And then there is News Corp who have spent above $100 million over the last 10 to 20 years paying off sexual harassment victims at Fox News in the US and shareholders who sued because of the issue.
Given the old media can’t be trusted to do the right thing and properly report the #MeToo campaign and investigate all the complaints it is even more reason why the recently announced national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces by the Australian Human Rights Commission is needed.
Tracey Spicer wrote on The Saturday Paper website (30-6-18):
Eight months after calling for stories of sexual misconduct in the Australian arts and media, the author details her involvement in establishing the world’s first workplace harassment inquiry. By Tracey Spicer.
My Twitter inbox is burgeoning with horror: rape, digital penetration, poking, groping, grabbing.
It’s mid October 2017, just days after sending a tweet asking for stories about two serial offenders in the media sector, and I’m sitting at my home computer, submerged in messages from women. They finally are free, it seems, to share their experiences, which involve so many stars in the entertainment firmament.
I feel a flood of tears rising. How can one freelance journalist do justice to this tsunami of information, which has for several decades been kept in the shadows?
A week later, I have my first meeting with the Herald’s editor, Lisa Davies, in the boardroom of Fairfax Media’s Sydney headquarters. Outside, late spring sun is stippling Darling Harbour.
Unbeknown to Davies, two of the dozens of men who have been named are based at this workplace. I decide to drop my “good girl” persona and set parameters for the project.
“I need an assurance you’ll cover these stories, regardless of whether the person named is someone at Fairfax,” I say. “And it must be nonpartisan. We should cover every story. Doesn’t matter whether the guy is of the left or right.”
There’s an almost imperceptible pause before Davies replies. “Of course,” she says. “That’s what we’re all about. Independent, always.”
Later, I pass the dossier I’ve collated around the 10-strong team, including investigative reporter Kate McClymont. “Oh, shit,” one of the reporters says under his breath. “Yep,” I reply. “And more.”
Tasks are assigned, and we begin making calls. I fill the shared online folders with incoming allegations.
But by mid December, I see tumbleweeds.
Don denies any wrongdoing. Nine execs run for cover. And the Herald moves from #MeToo to #MeNoMore.
The defamation action filed against The Daily Telegraph by the actor Geoffrey Rush douses the flames. Newsrooms grow nervous, already under pressure due to reduced profits.
I phone a friend, a long-time Herald employee.
“It’s the perfect storm,” she says. “Australia has some of the toughest defamation laws in the world. We don’t have US-style protections for free speech. And I’ve heard you’re getting too close to those at the top.”
“Who? Politicians?” I ask.
“No,” she replies. “A couple of senior people at Fairfax.”
(The Saturday Paper is not suggesting Lisa Davies did not pursue the story because it involved identifying Fairfax employees. Davies said on Friday: “The Herald’s investigative unit remains open to investigating any substantial allegations of sexual misconduct. The work done thus far, with Tracey Spicer and the ABC, has elicited significant results and hopefully we will do more together in the future.”)
While there is no evidence of a cover-up, I’m worried the antipodean #MeToo will be stymied because of the concentration of media power in a small number of hands. (Click here to read the full story – It is well worth the few minutes to read)
I sent the below email to Lisa Davies who is the Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald
From: SHANE DOWLING
Sent: 03 July 2018 13:41
To: ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ <email@example.com>
Subject: Media questions – Sexual predators at Fairfax Media – Can you confirm Greg Hywood is one?
Dear Ms Davies
I would like you to answer a few questions for an article I will be publishing tonight.
- Can you confirm that you are aware of complaints against CEO Greg Hywood regarding sexual harassment?
- Can you detail what action you and other Fairfax Media staff have taken since last year when Tracey Spicer made you aware of sexual harassment complaints against 2 Fairfax Media employees.
- Can you confirm that you have been directed by Fairfax Media management not to publish anymore articles regarding sexual harassment in the media industry?
- Can you name the “couple of senior people at Fairfax”, as reported in The Saturday Paper website, who have tried to close down the reporting by Fairfax Media of sexual harassment in the media industry?
Can you please respond by 6pm today.
I also saved the email as a picture and Tweeted it on Twitter.
Declaration: Lisa Davies wrote an article last year calling for my jailing for breaching suppression orders and I published an article basically calling her a grub for doing so. It’s fair to say we are not friends.
Fairfax responded via the below email and on Twitter.
From: Brad Hatch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: 03 July 2018 15:49
To: Shane Dowling
Subject: Response from Fairfax Media
Dear Mr Dowling,
Responding on behalf of Fairfax Media, a spokesperson said:
“Everything you say is complete rubbish. We can categorically state we have never received any allegation from Tracey Spicer (nor any other person) about Greg Hywood, nor have we ever received any specific or detailed information about any rumours about any individual connected to Fairfax. We have outstanding credentials in reporting regarding sexual harassment and we will continue this work. There has never been any instruction from senior management to stop reporting legitimate stories.”
Director of Communications
I view Fairfax’s response as basically an admission that a cover-up of sexual harassment at Fairfax Media is in full swing. I’ll make a few points:
- Fairfax play the wordsmith game in their response: “any specific or detailed information about any rumours”. The key words are “specific” and “detailed”. But what about general rumours then like the ones published 4 days ago on The Saturday Paper website? Are Fairfax aware of them? Of course they are.
- Fairfax responded to my email and denied the allegations and published the responses publicly on Twitter in just over 2 hours after I sent the questions via email. But Fairfax published no denial regarding the allegations that were made on The Saturday Paper website by Tracey Spicer 4 days ago on the 30-6-18.
- Fairfax’s response says: “There has never been any instruction from senior management to stop reporting legitimate stories.”. It doesn’t answer questions 3 and 4 I asked them.
- Fairfax’s response says: “Everything you say is complete rubbish”. Are they also saying that about Tracey Spicer and accusing her of lying in her article?
- Lisa Davies did not respond to my email questions herself. Does she deny what Tracey Spicer said about her in the article on The Saturday Paper website?
Fairfax’s response to my questions left them plenty of wriggle room it they are exposed as liars and that is what they were obviously trying for.
I have no doubt that Tracey Spicer told the truth in her article and there would be people at Fairfax hoping the truth is exposed. Fairfax have done some good work for people who have been denied justice but that does not mean that they can abuse their own staff and deny them their rights.
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