The powerful revealed

The just-released unauthorised biography of Sydney shock-jock Alan Jones, “Jonestown“, has caused the expected outrage. Conservatives are incensed that author Chris Masters has “outed” Jones – as if this wasn’t already known – and dared to examine the effect of his sexuality on his various personal dealings.

Of course, most of these critics haven’t actually read the book – after all, they can barely cobble together a weekly column, let alone read (or write) a 512-page book – so what does the book itself contain?

I’ve only started the work in the last days. Thus far, it makes for fascinating reading. The opening chapter, “Reporting on Alan”, contains the following passage:

I still think of the unofficial ‘swearing-in’ of prospective New South Wales Minister Michael Costa at Alan Jones’ home in November 2001 as dumbfounding. New South Wales Premier Bob Carr must have known it was stupid. Carr had scant respect for Jones, and Carr’s advisors had even less respect for the broadcaster’s advisors, also assembled.

Successive administrations in New South Wales had learned to treat policing as an unexploded bomb, so for Carr to surrender reason and bargain with a sensitive portfolio says a lot about the power of Alan Jones. The episode is even more remarkable when you consider the timing and Jones’ reputation. The preceding year Australian Broadcasting Authority findings had seriously challenged Jones’ honesty and integrity.

The episode raises important questions. What does it says about my own industry [journalism] that a man succeeds despite – or even because of – dishonesty? And what does it say about the rest of us who allow him so much power?

Investigative journalism is supposed to uncover material that a subject would rather keep hidden. Its aim is to provoke, challenge and upset. Many “commentators” in Australia seem to think that keeping the powerful happy is the way to ensure a successful career. They’re probably right (but they’re also not journalists.)

UPDATE: Of course, some people regard Jones as the Lord and Saviour.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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