John Pilger has always been hopelessly romantic about journalism, he told a 2 March Press Club lunch, and the day he got a cadetship on the Daily Telegraph was one of the happiest of his life.
While the media of the time was highly formulaic, Pilger counts himself lucky to have built his career in Fleet Street in an era when there was space for dissenting journalism.
“Today corporatism runs through everything like a kind of slick" and largely determines the decisions those who run the media make – "that business-friendly equals good,” he told moderator Michael Bachelard.
World-class journalists like Seymour Hersh and the late Robert Parry don't get work writing for papers because they do their job so well and step on too many toes, Pilger said.
On Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whose organisation “changed, or ought to have changed how we see much of journalism”, Pilger said he had been let down by journalists everywhere, especially in Australia.
“The misreporting, the inaccuracies, the misinformation about this … If ever there was a vivid example of journalists as a pack, or as Bob Parry used to say ‘the group think’ of journalism following the formula, it has been in the reporting of not [only] Wikileaks but of Assange himself.”
Meanwhile public confidence in the media has fallen to an all-time low, contributing to the many problems faced by the industry, the veteran correspondent said.
John Pilger, who has been London based for more than half a century, is one of the most successful global journalists of his generation and was recently inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame.
Moderator Michael Bachelard is the Fairfax Foreign Editor and a Gold Walkley winner.