Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The ugliness of Media Watch

Media Watch is a television program based on schadenfreud.
For years I have been glad of anonymity on this platform. Suddenly, I am its target.
I might be on the other side of the world, but the ABC's budget allows for unlimited international phone bills, it seems.
Twice now the program has called me here in the US to ask about a little arts colour story I did last year. Media Watch thinks it has uncovered a hoax - the artist is not who he says he is. He has not done what he says he has done.
The first phone call I accepted with some amazement - talking to the program's female researcher as a journalistic peer rather than an interrogator or enemy. Silly me. I did not think of myself as being on the record in talking to another journalist. I thought it terms of providing information to a peer - as we do, from time to time. And I told her that I thought it was all of fairly little importance. Even if the artist had exaggerated, he was not trying to fake an identity. It was only a small colour story written mid last year as an arts rainy-day filler because it was not associated with an exhibition or anything current. But then the researcher asked me, saying she was sorry but she had been told to ask me this: "Do you feel duped like your father?" And I realised that these people had discovered my lineage - and were looking to create a second arts hoax story in the family name. This is what we, in the trade, call a beat-up.
The Ern Malley hoax, Australia's greatest literary hoax, occurred in the 1940s, before I was born. But, hey, what a joke to have a new millennium version with the daughter.

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