Monday, April 07, 2003

Journalist Arse-Licker Extraordinaire

With major editorial personnel changes just having taken place within the House of Fairfax, it is perhaps a bit unfair to pick on the current Business Review Weekly just for a bit of sport. However, I don’t think that slamming Stuart Washington’s quasi-cover story “The strong, silent type” is just a bit of a Monday slap’n’tickle. For Stuart, I intend going the whole piñata, in fact.

Stuart’s BRW story would be bad enough if it was just a ridiculous puff piece on a Chinese billionaire (nickname “Superman”) and one of his sons. With languorous lines like this:

The naming of CKI and Cheung Kong Holdings stems from the Cantonese words meaning "long river", a reference to the Yangtze. This long river now seems to be winding its way through Australia, in its own particular style.

the average reader’s own “long river” is surely poised dangerously close to reversing its usual direction, and so regurgitating its breakfast (stylishly or otherwise).

It is what Stuart leaves out of his article that most gets up my own wide billabong, however. I’m no expert on Asian business myself, but, as an Australian, when I hear the words Li Ka-shing (aka “Superman”) I reach for my ledger. So far, the Reach joint venture and one of Superman’s sons, Richard Li, has – with the aid and/or negligence of Telstra executives – cost the Australian populace (who are, of course, majority owners of Telstra) several billion dollars, a sum which could still rise significantly*.

No doubt Superman deeply regrets this loss – the money, the loss of family face, the apparent waste of his sperm in conceiving Richard; whatever. Reach wasn’t Dad’s fault, legally or morally, and I accept that. I still find it difficult to comprehend, though, that such a one-sided, resolutely upbeat article as Stuart Washington’s cannot even throw in a passing mention of the prodigal Richard’s adventures with Australian taxpayer money. This is all the more so because it goes to some pains to glowingly name another son-of-Superman (not because Victor Li has done anything in particular, mind, but presumably because even Stuart couldn’t quite bring himself to accord immortality upon the 74 year-old Li-the-Elder).

So who is Stuart Washington? Conveniently enough for Fairfax flack-taking, he appears to be a freelancer, at least for the purposes of this article. The best insight on him comes from, which has Mr Washington, at least in 2001, as a Singapore-based magazine editor, whose significant other is Alana House, “Cleo” editor in Singapore.

Perhaps for Stuart’s next article, he could pool his talents with Alana, and then the two of them write a slightly meatier article. How about “We find the Australian taxpayers’ g-spot!”

*Glenda Korporaal “Reach offers staff voluntary redundancy” The Australian 7 April 2003 (no URL).


Stuart Washington, turns out to be far from a freelancer – he is no less than BRW's national news editor. Which, on one hand, implicates Fairfax up to its larynx in the above unseemly trash. On the other hand, with a whole three inches between the larynx and mouth, why should Fairfax even bother admitting it now has a problem – much less start to panic?

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