TWO controversial reports, critical of Israel and decried as unbalanced and lacking context have been named as finalists in the 2014 Walkley Awards, which recognise excellence in Australian journalism.
Fairfax journalist Ruth Pollard was shortlisted for her piece entitled “Grief grips Gaza”, which looked at Palestinian families affected by the recent Israel/Palestinian conflict.
According to reports in The Australian last month: “Pollard’s feature on Gaza was so controversial when it was published it prompted a flood of readers to cancel subscriptions to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“SMH editor Darren Goodsir spent two days on the phone begging subscribers to give his paper another chance, promising more balanced coverage of the conflict.”
Joining Pollard on the shortlist is prolific and vocal Israel critic John Lyons, also named as a finalist for his part in a report for Four Corners and The Australian called “Stone Cold Justice”, about the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli custody.
The story was slated by communal groups, and even prompted criticism from the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, which described the piece as “one-sided and biased”.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm said he was “appalled that pieces as disingenuous as those written by Pollard and Lyons are being considered for the Walkley awards”, while Sam Tatarka, president of the Zionist Council of Victoria said the Walkleys were “disregarding their own guidelines in even considering Pollard and Lyons for an award, let alone making them finalists for their inaccurate … journalism”.
General manager of the Walkley Foundation Louisa Graham told The AJN only that, “the awards are peer judged by industry panels of journalists” and that the “judge’s decision is final”.
In an op-ed appearing in this week’s edition of The AJN, Federal MP Michael Danby expressed his outrage at the nod for Pollard.
“Pollard’s ‘day in the life of’ account of Al-Shifa Hospital (which doubled as Hamas’s war-time headquarters, though you wouldn’t have read that in Pollard’s article), would be ‘vivid’ writing if it were from an activist’s pen,” the member for Melbourne Ports wrote.
“The story also contained statements that were known to be errors by the time of the article’s publication. The Walkley Foundation gave such biased writing and incompetent (or wilfully negligent) fact-checking a gong,” Danby continued.
Federal MP Michael Danby.