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Nothing less than a front page story on an relatively minor act of (alleged) vandalism to the house of an East Launceston resident who just happened to be the Gunns LTD CEO.

The first thing the Examiner did wrong was to include this comment in the article…

“Family sources said that Mr Gay and his wife were “extremely nervous about a radical anti-pulp mill element in the community”.

The second. This comment….

“The attacks coincide with a fiery community cabinet meeting at Beaconsfield last Sunday where 21 anti- pulp mill protesters were arrested.

Now why was it wrong to include these comments at this stage.

The police investigation had just got underway and there was absolutely zero evidence linking the crime to pulp mill groups.

Bear with me.

As a mountaineer replied when he was asked why he wanted to risk his life climbing mountains “If you have to ask me that question in the first place it is unlikely that you are going to understand anyway – even if I do explain”

And I fear the same about the Examiner editor’s ability to understand what the Examiner have done wrong here. Nevertheless. Here goes.

Its called guilt by association. It beggars belief that you do not understand this.

But I guess the Examiner newspaper has a licence to sensationalise a little.

A lot maybe?

At the expense of an easy target like TAP…right?

That’s what good journalism; tabloid style is all about, as opposed to opinion. Picking on easy targets.

Last week the Examiner sensationalised an otherwise common and comparatively minor street crime (alleged vandalism at the home of Gunns CEO John Gay) by giving it vastly overwrought coverage including - two front pages, an editorial, a two page spread on Tuesday, a bizarre and inflammatory column by Paul Lennon, and an online opinion poll.

The Examiner coverage clearly associated the crime committed with anti-mill groups TAP and Pulp the Mill by consistently, over a 3-day period framing the issue in all coverage as one
concerning anti-mill campaigners and Mr Gay, Rather than one between Mr Gay and some local hooligans as the subsequent police investigation has revealed.

I repeat. Guilt by association.

The Examiner’s more senior and experienced staff would be well are aware of the power and influence that newspapers have to influence the way in which people think about issues…right.

As a media academic once said, “The media can’t tell you what to think but they sure can tell you what to think about”

Indeed, by dragging anti-mill groups like TAP into its coverage of a crime which they clearly had nothing to do with the Examiner told readers “what to think about the issue”.

For instance. I visited a friend of mine last Sunday night after the first front page story was published by the Ex.

We discussed the issue and my wife and I defended anti-mill protesters urging our friend to wait for the outcome of the police investigation.

She had read the Examiner’s coverage. Her response: “Of course it was pulp mill opponents who else would it be”.

We discussed it further and my wife and I canvassed other possibilities.

My friend’s view was moderated and her mind became open to the possibility of other culprits.

Do I have to spell it out for the Examiner?

You poisoned the minds of readers and poisoned the reputation of innocent people.

The Examiner ran an online opinion poll on Monday asking readers “who they thought was responsible for vandalism”.  For goodness sake!

Why would the Examiner do that? What was the bloody point?

By the Examiner establishing a clear link between the crime and TAP, Pulp the Mill and other mill opponents in the community, it condemned them in the minds of readers through guilt by association.  

The Examiner’s coverage of the issue lasted 4 days.

This included the allocation of the paper’s major headline - front page spreads on Sunday Oct 11 and Monday Oct 12.

And yes, Monday’s Examiner also led readers on page 2 to participate in an online opinion poll asking readers “who they thought was responsible for vandalism”.

Can we imagine what the result of that poll might have been considering the Examiner coverage of the issue to that point? 

It must be remembered that a police investigation into the incident had been commenced at this stage but was not completed. 

Tuesday’s Oct 13 Examiner devoted another full 2 page spread to the issue which including a simply horrible piece by Paul Lennon in which he angrily declared that anti-pulp mill groups were directly responsible for the vandalism at John Gay’s house. 

It was simply irresponsible and hotheaded of Lennon to write it and worse for the Examiner to publish it.

On Monday Oct 12 the Examiner’s Editor editorialised on the issue writing one of the most inappropriate, impetuous, and damaging editorials I have ever read in the Examiner.
 
The editorial was a shocker - full of inference, hyperbole and emotive language like terrorist, bomb, cowardice, knuckle-brained idiots, outrageous, disgraceful and reprehensible.

The editorial was definitive and consistent with the paper’s coverage of the issue by framing the alleged crime at Gays house as a part of “campaign of intimidation”.

It even argued the state’s reputation was on the line. Come of it.

May I politely suggest to the Examiner’s editor that interstate and overseas visitors have probably never heard of Mr Gay, or don’t care for him that much or East Launceston’s problem with street hooligans.

The editorial all but literally implied that anti-mill groups were responsible either directly or indirectly for the campaign of intimidation

It argued….

1. That the crime “was part of a campaign of intimidation” – (implicating pulp mill opponents -Who else would want to intimidate Mr Gay)

2. “The planting of a smoke bomb borders on an act of terrorism”

3. “The anti-mill campaigners also need these fools caught. They have rightly condemned the weekend act of cowardice. But when searching for culprits many pulp mill supporters will look their way….... yet their reputations are (Pulp the Mill and TAP) in danger of being tarnished by the attacks on the Gay family” 
 
The obvious response to the last of the Examiner editor’s statements is that perhaps only a handful of rabid greenie haters would still apportion blame to anti-mill groups had the Examiner not sensationalised the story by giving it two front pages, an editorial, a two page spread on Tuesday, a inflammatory column by Paul Lennon, and an online opinion poll and dragged anti-mill groups like TAP into the fray when the issue was none of their business.
   
As Editor of the Examiner newspaper, the buck stops with Fiona Reynolds.

The Examiner’s editor you can make this about herself, anonymous emails, the TT and try and distract from the real issue which is that the Examiner “done bad”.

The Examiner done real bad.

The Examiner got it wrong. The editor got it wrong.

Its not a hard case to prosecute even for a dumbed down Launceston amateur like me.

Yes Ms Reynolds you should in fact offer the groups TAP and Pulp the Mill an unreserved apology, and so should Paul Lennon.

Rick Pilkington
Gravelly Beach

Let’s take one example.

Last Sunday. The first story the Examiner ran on this issue.