Much has been written and said – and much more will be – about the Andrew Bolt verdict this week and how it pertains to free speech. I have already written several times about how the right to free speech does not entitle you to be published or paid for it, or give you immunity from the consequences of exercising that right. I see no reason to restate that point with fresh examples. As to whether the law he was sued under is an ass, I will leave that to people who are more learned and passionate on the subject than I am.*
What I take issue with is the way Andrew Bolt is frequently referred to as a journalist. He is not.
Journalists break stories. The closest Andrew Bolt has come to breaking a story in recent memory was dropping a teaser about having a story that would force Julia Gillard to resign, and then throwing a hissy fit (again, related to free speech) when the story he was (presumably) referring to had to be quickly pulled on the grounds that it wasn’t true. What kind of country are we living in when you’re stopped from publishing a story just because it isn’t true?
Andrew Bolt makes more new than he reports. Like an Australian Ann Coulter (a comparison he would probably consider a compliment) he makes a career out of saying increasingly outlandish things and then cries about censorship whenever he is called out on that outlandishness. That’s not journalism.
Journalists report the news. It could be an impending political scandal, a war, a traffic accident or a cat stuck up a tree – you just never know. Journalism is more than staying in your office, doing all your research on Google, writing a daily “Here’s what I reckon about that” column, and posting photos that readers have taken through their windows on your ’blog.
I am not saying Andrew Bolt has never been a journalist. I know that when he first got his job at the Herald Sun, it was as a journalist. I don’t doubt that he has some journalistic blood. I know he chooses to identify as a journalist. I am saying that what he does now, is not journalism.
“But Bill, you’re not a journalist. Who are you to say who is a journalist and who isn’t?”
No, I’m not a journalist. I never have been one and most likely never will be.
But I reckon I know one when I see one. And I reckon I’m at least as qualified to decide who should or shouldn’t be called a journalist as Andrew Bolt is to decide who should and shouldn’t be called Aboriginal.
That’s free speech for ya!
* My pick of the commentary on the case:
David Marr: "In black and white, Andrew Bolt trifled with the facts"
Jonathan Holmes: "Bolt, Bromberg and a profoundly disturbing judgement"
Michael Gawenda: "Bolt's columns did not deserve to see the light of day. End of story"
Mike Carlton: "Nuts come out after the truth has bolted"