ABC News editor Justin Stevens says he regrets not issuing a statement of support D+R hosted Stan Grant previously and named News Corporation among media outlets amplifying social media abuse.
Talking with Rafael Epstein on ABC Radio Melbourne this afternoon, Stevens said, “Personally, I feel devastated that he feels let down in us because we care deeply about him. He is an incredible reporter and reporter… we invited him as a guest to take part in our eight hour continuous coverage of the coronation of King Charles III. He was a reluctant participant. He wasn’t agitating to be a part of it. We invited him and he graciously accepted the invitation.
“He took part in what was 40-45 minutes of eight-hour coverage. It was the only point in the coverage where we reflected on First Nations perspectives in our history. And secondly, (to have) a broader discussion of what the Corona means to people with different perspectives right now.
“This was a different dynamic than the Queen’s death last year. No one was in mourning, no one was dead. This was a time for us to do what we do as a national broadcaster, which is facilitate conversations that are sometimes uncomfortable for viewers and listeners. It is not our job to shy away from them. And it is ingrained in our Charter to listen to a diversity of perspectives”.
Stevens acknowledged that ABC had previously issued statements of support for Tony Armstrong and Lisa Millar following recent online and media abuse, but did not do so for Stan Grant.
“Sorry I haven’t made a direct statement about Stan in the last few days. I personally apologized to him for this. Because this racism that he’s been subjected to, it’s not just from the last two weeks, it’s been going on inexorably for months.
ABC also blamed the media for the “sustained and vitriolic” criticism, but Stevens singled out News Corporation for “denting” people’s faith in ABC.
“I regret not doing this kind of interview 10 days ago Raf, and you know, it’s a whole different game now, for us. What we have now are sections of the media, particularly in News Limited, who will do everything they can to campaign against the ABC. We cannot be beyond control. In fact, we welcome it,” she continued.
“But it’s clearly a concerted campaign to dent ABC and people’s sense of trust in it, on their part.
“Secondly, social media has provided a platform for people to broadcast completely toxic, disgusting and often illegal comments about people who work for us. It’s a dilemma and this is new.
Stevens agreed that ABC should have taken a more responsive approach to the abuse, both from social media and news outlets.
“I think we’ll have to get into the habit, even if it’s against our instincts not to be the story, of declaring it more often and more regularly. There are the anonymous trolls, there are the social media addicts who go after people because they hate that they exist, let alone what they say. But then there’s also the media that plays a role in amplifying and agency and gratifying the concerns of these people, and rallying and stimulating them,” she said.
“I think the Australian media in general needs to take a good look at themselves as to what is in the public interest and where their reporting efforts go worse for the public.
“Over the weekend, for example, we had four or five different media mailings about specific things related to ABC. One of them from The Australian newspaper was because they – or someone for them – had perused the personal social media of one of our Indigenous journalists and asked questions about it. This is the level of control they are looking for. Do we really have to ask what is in the public interest? And where should these efforts be directed? And there is a subtle difference between scrutinizing and accumulating.
Stan Grant presents D+R tonight, but the show is expected to take a mid-season break soon, and Stevens says Grant has an open invitation to return.
“He wants a break, he wants to rest. He wants to spend time with his family and take a break from that and I totally respect and understand that. We want to give him time to do it…. D+R it has a few more episodes after this week and then there’s a midseason break, and then it’ll be back. We just want to give him space and time to try and take a break from that. I hope you come back after the mid-season break.”