Choppergate great example of role of media

THERE should be times in anyone's work life when you are extremely proud of what you do.

In journalism terms, the downfall of Bronwyn Bishop this week was one for me.

Exposing shoddy behaviour - or righting wrongs - is why many of us got into the trade.

It's obvious looking back on the past 10 days that without robust journalism we would still have an out-of-touch money-waster charting her own course.

The (former) Speaker of Parliament was named and shamed for spending thousands of dollars on a helicopter trip that was unnecessary.

It's clear now she, and more than likely Prime Minister Tony Abbott too, were intending to brazen their way out of it.

But as evidence of more excessive spending dripped out, her position became untenable.

How does this sort of information get in the public domain? Someone leaks it.

It could well have been Opposition MPs keen to dig dirt.

But there's nearly as much chance it was someone in the ruling Coalition, out to bring down Bishop or Abbott.

And once the snowball starts to roll, anyone - from peeved limo drivers to stunned 'copter company owners - might have been on the phone to reporters.

It's nearly always the way. Outrage begets outrage.

My most comparable situation as a journalist was in New Zealand, where we outed a school principal who spent money earmarked for new hockey turf on a deck for his beach house.

The guy was a columnist on my paper at the time. I had dined at his place. But he was treated the same as anyone when we dug up the proof. He lost his job, faced the courts.

It was the end of a friendship, but the continuation of my love affair with the importance of journalism.

Bryce Johns is the editorial director of Australian Regional Media


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