Kathy Jackson and the failure of the Fifth Estate

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Peter Wicks says the mainstream media were better than most so-called "independent media" when it came to reporting on Kathy Jackson's rorts (Image by Francene Jones / @FrancieJones)

Other independent media outlets have been very keen to take credit for the fall from grace of Kathy Jackson. Peter Wicks says, where have you been all this time?

IT DOESN'T TAKE an Einstein to figure out that the HSU Jacksonville saga has been a significant part of my life, impacting it in virtually every aspect.

Those of you who have been following my coverage would know I’m not particularly big in holding back on my opinions.

With that in mind, I have been biting my lip since the Kathy Jackson situation spontaneously combusted. This occurred after her Federal Court case, that she had succeeded in delaying for over 12 months, finally handed down its decision.

Now it’s time to vent a bit.

I have been writing on the allegations against Kathy Jackson and her faction of the HSU for years, many of the matters I raised were matters before the Federal Court and make up the approximately $1.4 million the Court ordered her to pay back to HSU members.

Clearly, there has been a gaping hole in the investigative directions of the mainstream media and, after the Federal Court case concluded, there has been an online backlash against them via social media, something that is completely justified.

However, whilst I’m not usually quick to jump to the defense of the mainstream media, it is wrong to tar the entire mainstream with the same brush.

There are many who have been aware of the evidence against Jackson and many I assume weren’t. Those that were aware, some of who had threatened IA and I with legal action, chose to be selectively blind, and it is entirely reasonable to question their motives given the money involved and the political nature of the case.

There have been some in the mainstream however that have gone the extra mile to ensure this story came to light, albeit some earlier than others.

Simon Cullen from the ABC fought incredibly hard with editors and legal departments to be the first in the mainstream to really put out an alternative point of view on Jackson’s involvement all the way back in June 2012, years ahead of the rest of the MSM. He also credited Independent Australia in his report, something that rarely happens in the mainstream — except, of course, when they are trying to diminish or discredit us.

Nick McKenzie, Ben Schneiders, Richard Baker and Royce Millar blew the lid on the NHDA Peter Mac slush fund that had appeared in union bank statements published here the previous year. This would not have happened without the resources of Fairfax and perhaps should be seen as a sign of the calibre of investigative journalist they should have had on the HSU matter from the start.

Over at News Ltd, Brad Norington at The Australian was also exposing many aspects of Jackson’s involvement and, in particular, the role that the Abbott appointed Michael Lawler was playing in the background. Since leaving The Australian, Brad’s fantastic work has been picked up and run with by Pamela Williams who is doing some excellent work.

The work done by myself and IA editor David Donovan has also been acknowledged on social media by MSM members such as Latika Bourke and Jonathan Swan, amongst several others.

I also cannot go without mentioning the absolutely wonderful Wendy Harmer, who contacted me to write an alternative point of view on Craig Thomson’s parliamentary address for The Hoopla. Harmer had the courage and foresight to stick her neck well and truly out, while many others were branding us nutters and conspiracy theorists. To this day, Wendy has been an absolute rock and her support and friendship is something I treasure. I’m sure others who know her will agree.

Now that the Federal Court decision has been handed down, and the public is aware of the criminal investigation into the allegations of fraud and criminal conduct, it seems that everyone has now picked their side.

What I find hypocritical and disappointing in the extreme is the temptation for many in the “independent media” to leap on the bandwagon that has clearly proven too hard to resist.

I want to make it clear that whilst the MSM may have been slack in picking up the matter and following the evidence, there was also a gaping hole in the “independent media”.

Those who actually did the hard yards can be counted on one hand. They would be myself, Dave Donovan and Andrew Landeryou (former editor of Vex News).

I’m sorry, but that does not make up the “independent media” — it covers three just online publishers.

The “independent media” did not battle threats, lawyers, and have their lives twisted, contorted, and turned inside out. The “independent media” were not subject to smears and personal attacks, as we were for years. We have paid the price mentally, emotionally and financially.

This however has not stopped some within this “independent media” crowing about the success of the "Fifth Estate" and the failing of the MSM.

It is interesting to note that there have been more from the MSM that have reported on allegations against Jackson than members of the “independent media”. Many of those patting themselves on the back for watching from the sidelines actually show they were aware of what was going on and failed to report on it.

There is an argument that the “independent media” does not have the resources, however neither do I or IA. There is also a defense that while we were writing about it that they didn’t think they needed to — yet that defence apparently doesn’t extend to the MSM.

The Jackson matter shows a failure of the “independent media” as much as it shows a failure of the MSM — perhaps even more so given the claimed awareness of so many members of it.

I also want to make it clear that this criticism is not directed at those who have shared and retweeted our articles or commented on our sites, I can assure you that the support of the public has been the lifeblood in our veins, and has been what kept us going all these years. And it is also not directed at everyone in the “independent media”, some of whom have been extremely supportive.

For those of you in the “independent media" who have risked nothing and yet claimed all, I hope you take a long hard look at yourselves.

To those who think I’m biting the hand that feeds me, I say this: I call it as I see it and have no hesitation in taking to task those who many would assume I am aligned with, as I have shown with my articles on Labor Party factionalism and corruption. The other thing I would point out is that I haven’t had anyone feed me since I was two years old — I can feed myself, thank you very much.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the so-called "Fifth Estate" plays a vital role in the make up of the Australian media and I also believe that they perform that role magnificently on a shoestring.

However, it is important also that those in the Fifth Estate understand that you can’t serve two masters. Credibility and truth are not always on the same side at the start, and attempting to have a finger in both pies doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to make a choice and stand by it.

That is what should set us apart.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

Read more about the Jacksonville saga HERE.

Donate to Peter's Jacksonville book writing fund HERE:

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