She’s done it again. Natalie O’Brien, the Fairfax reporter who has been sniping at greyhound racing for a couple of years now, has had another crack at the industry in her March 30 item in the Sun Herald.
Despite the parliamentary Inquiry reporting that abuses were “minimal”, O’Brien devoted most of her article to dissenting comments by Greens MP John Kaye, who claimed that GRNSW “has dodged a bullet” after the Inquiry ignored references to euthanised dogs and other matters. Those words were uttered under parliamentary privilege but neither Kaye nor O’Brien has tried to better define “dodged” or “bullet”. As a reporter, O’Brien was duty bound to delve further, but did not bother, instead just repeating the claims verbatim. Kaye himself had originally got wide media coverage after making wild and unsustainable accusations about the industry.
While those issues were well canvassed during the hearings, the other six members of the committee obviously thought it not of sufficient concern to make a song and dance about it. However, many of its other recommendations went to such matters as the need to improve supervision of trainers’ practices, to increase efforts to re-home dogs and to watch over the “socialisation” aspect during their early careers in particular.
It is striking that O’Brien has managed to extract a string of adverse comments by Kaye at the far end of the 184 page report while skating briefly over the parts that did not suit her agenda. Did Kaye prompt O’Brien or was it vice versa?
O’Brien’s previous greyhound efforts in Fairfax papers (Jul 15, 2012, Aug 12, 2012, Nov 24, 2013) contained a few valid points but otherwise they were all backed by unsubstantiated and untested claims by people who later failed to present their cases to GRNSW. They could be best described as hearsay and innuendo, yet were presented as facts.
Effectively, Kaye was the instigator of the whole Inquiry following his original attack on what he has termed abuses, bullying, secrecy and cronyism. Like any other walk of life, greyhound racing is not perfect but the balance found by the Inquiry was that while improvements could and should be made, in the overall sense participants “take great care and pride in their dogs”.
Kaye, like other tiny minorities which made submissions to the Inquiry, implies that he does not like greyhound racing in any form. That’s his privilege but it should not be allowed to govern everything that happens. Society contains murderers, burglars, embezzlers and rapists but that does not mean the rest of the population should also get a black mark.
O’Brien’s situation is similar but more serious. Her actions appear to run counter to the journalist’s ethics and code of practice. She has failed on two major counts; first to properly verify the claims of abuses by making contact with a range of involved parties, and secondly by failing to give balance in her articles to facts and arguments for and against.
The ABC 7:30 Report was also at fault in this way. In one example in a highly critical program, a 15 minute interview with one senior authority figure ended up as an 8-second grab on the program, while lengthy complaints by others were never verified. At best, it was a blatant attempt at tabloid-style headline grabbing. The ABC has been widely criticised for similar treatment of other subjects.
In both these cases, their comments were massively (and in O’Brien’s case, repeatedly) slanted to paint a poor picture of the industry while offering only fleeting opportunities for contrary views to be put. That the all-party parliamentary Inquiry has found and acted differently serves only to underline the slack nature of the reporting. Remember that O’Brien’s writing did not come under the heading of “opinion”. As with the ABC 7.30 report, it purported to be straight reporting. Consequently, both parties should be hauled over the coals for misleading the public.
For reference, here are just two items in the journalists’ code of practice. It requires them to …
“1. Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply”.
“4. Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence”.
To use a term popular in legal circles these days, would an “ordinary person” see any breaches there, or not?
Separately, let’s note that the RSPCA, an organisation with some standing in the community, also has been at pains to highlight what it claims is an excessive number of greyhounds euthanised. Yet, under questioning, it was unable to provide accurate data on that subject or to offer comparable evidence for any other dog breed, or even of horses. This somewhat slapdash and unprofessional approach reduces the worth of its submissions. Like the above two media sources, it smacks of an emotional bias against greyhound racing.
There is an anti-football league in Melbourne but at least they are honest about it. They are also part of a tiny minority. In fact, society has lots of tiny minorities. Such is democracy, but life goes on regardless.
Whatever comes of this exercise, it does not relieve the greyhound industry of the obligation to better inform the public about the breed and how the industry works. At the very least, it owes that to owners, trainers and employees. It is also good business practice.
IT’S ENGINEERING, NOT SCIENCE
Punters marvelling at super fast times at Cranbourne recently will be glad to know that the club chucked out all the old loam and put in 100 tonnes of new stuff. Hence all the records and fast times being recorded.
It seems like differences of several lengths are involved but we may need a little more evidence to be sure. Meantime, take care with any tipsters’ comments about fantastic runs over all distances. Make your own judgements.
Massive changes like this are becoming a habit. Albion Park’s 520m trip quickened by a good three lengths last November following the installation of new Steraline boxes with a different timing system. Previously, we had seen GRV fiddle with the timing mechanism at Sandown and elsewhere, leading to new record times going into the books. That followed a similar speeding up when its loam was replaced a few years ago.
The worrying issue is that the record books are becoming a joke and undeserving dogs are being allocated a place in history. The solution, of course, is to declare the circuit a new track and re-start the whole process. In either case, more advance notice and more testing might help punters work out what’s what.
HI HO SILVER!
There is always a chuckle left in racing. Isn’t it magical how every race starter in the nation presses the button to switch on the green light and then waves madly to his mate in the tower to get the bunny running? Every one of them does it. Are we missing something here?
Not so funny is the incidence of people standing outside the safety rope at the start, thereby risking contact with an errant lure. Their numbers include stewards.
“Australian school students never master multiplication ¬tables, no longer learn long division and can’t add fractions by the time they get to university”, according to Melbourne mathematician Marty Ross. Other experts agreed (The Australian April 5).
Perhaps this is where mug gamblers come from? Obviously, we need a school for punting.
Did you notice that this website was the only publication to report why race 7 at Wentworth Park on Saturday – an Easter Egg heat – was declared a “No Race”, and what happened afterwards. The TAB and GRNSW simply said “Abandoned”, so leaving fans in the dark. See our article Keybow Sizzles In Golden Easter Egg Heats by Clarinda Campbell.