DFAT Needs Better Media Training

The Australian newspaper today carries a story about the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and their heavy handed media management in the Philippines.

Journalist Paul Toohey says the very first aid plane from Australia to land at Tacloban City was carrying a media adviser and when his photographer asked for names of people working on setting up the tents for captions they either said they were not allowed to say or ignored him. “They’d been media-awareness trained”, said Toohey.

Well, they weren’t very well media-awareness trained or they would have been doing all in their power to help the media get this horrific story out to the public so donations could pour in.

Toohey made the point that the heavy-handed approach (bloody stupid if you ask me) by Australian authorities was in sharp contrast to the US Marines who escorted media past security barriers and made sure they had unhindered access anywhere they went.

Looks to me like the US Marines are getting far better media training than DFAT in Australia.

Laurie Oakes Backs One Of My Main Media Training Points

th-LAURIE_OAKES-100x66Interesting to read today that veteran political reporter Laurie Oakes has slammed the Abbott government saying it is “thumbing its nose at voters” through a lack of transparency and communication.

“You can’t thumb your nose at the voters’ right to know and you can’t arrogantly say ‘we’ll let the voters be misinformed and we won’t help journalists get it right’. That’s just a disgusting attitude”.

And the man I worked with at channel nine many years ago is right. Abbott and his team are being extremely arrogant and making the mistake of separating the media from the voters. I keep telling my media training workshop participants not to make that mistake – the media are the people so if you ignore them you are in effect ignoring the people. They’d be the same people who vote you in and out of office Tony!

“They’re busily trying to avoid the media as much as possible and to control the media and so far they’re getting away with it but I don’t think they will get away with it for too long,” Laurie said

Laurie said the government should learn from the experience of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who sought to control media reporting more tightly after his 2010 election, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Mr Abbott has held just eight formal press conferences since his September 7 election win and requests for information from minister’s offices are frequently left unanswered.

I strongly suspect it is the influence of his top adviser, former lawyer Peta Credlin, that is behind the wall of secrecy. In my view lawyers and media are a bad mix and if I was Abbott I’d be appointing someone strong to push for proper media relations….before it’s too late.