On 31 October I published a story about Retro cafe on Brunswick St closing and owing thousands of dollars in unpaid rent. A typical Fitzroy story of no great consequence, but of interest to locals. Not for the first time, my story was recycled by a so-called ‘professional journalist’ and it appeared in the Leader on 10 November.
The article states: ‘Retro Cafe on Brunswick St was closed about two weeks ago, prompting several calls to the Yarra Leader from puzzled local residents.‘ Did it really? Locals called the Leader about the cafe closing? Why? Were they really puzzled? Was the Leader likely to know anything about it? Why would the locals assume that it knew anything?
A screen capture of the Melbourne Leader made on 4 December 2010
At best (from the Leader’s point of view), the story was allegedly prompted by the calls, because it apparently didn’t know about the event beforehand. At worst, this is a deliberate lie. Can the Leader prove it? I want to hear recordings of these calls, because I believe they don’t exist.
My scepticism is well founded. In 2009 I was contacted by a journalist at the Leader and asked to provide information and a photo for a story they were planning, which was a similarly recycled Fitzroyalty story about the dumping of rubbish outside an Abbotsford charity.
In the story the journalist published a deliberate lie about me, saying ‘Fitzroy resident Brian Ward contacted the Melbourne Leader to complain of regular dumping outside the charity every weekend.’ Of course I didn’t contact them. Why would I? I published a story about what I had seen, and carried on with my life.
The Leader lied to make itself look good. This lie prompted me to complain to the Australian Press Council, which ruled in my favour, and the Leader was forced to publish a correction and an apology. But it seems they didn’t learn anything from this humiliation.
There is a strong similarity between the rubbish article and the Retro article. Both claim that locals called the newspaper. The first instance has been proven false, and I allege that the second is equally false. I suspect that the Leader used my story as the source, refused to acknowledge it, and used this excuse to justify publishing the story.
Editorial rule number 1 at the Leader seems to be to insert a reference to itself into every possible story to create the illusion that people think it is relevant. What a bunch of sad pathetic losers…