THE VERY WELL BRIEFED PATRICK BARTLEY.
He’s got to be one of those journos who has well and truly slipped under the radar. Until now that is. Patrick Bartley, has been one of those guys whose byline is generally not associated with investigative journalism like many of his highly acclaimed Fairfax media colleagues. But that has all changed. With a dual “cause celebre” – the TVN and cobalt sagas- Bartley has revealed two very different sides to his journalism. His reporting on the cobalt saga is excellent with some well researched stories laced with informed veterinary science opinion.
His reporting on TVN issues on the other hand has been mixed. He has asked some very pertinent and awkward questions about the decision making by the TVN Board and revisited some of the still unexplained aspects associated with the glaring over-valued purchase price paid by TVN’s two racing publications – Best Bets and Winning Post.
But Bartley’s reporting of the whole sorry TVN saga has gone off the rails and set the hares running as to the source (or sources) of his range of stories over the past week or two.
Clearly, Bartley is being very well briefed. His quoting of the supposed Tabcorp offer for Victorian media and vision rights smacks very much of inside information coming out of Tabcorp or Sky Channel or out, well, Sydney.
Just last week Fairfax Media and Bartley opened the batting with a story, again quoting Tabcorp payments to TVN for media rights and exposing glaring discrepancies in what Racing Victoria’s “Inspector Clousseau” in Chief Executive Bernard “the plodder” Saundry provided in a position paper at a media briefing to Victorian racing media.
Coincidentally, the stories appeared when the NSW/Tabcorp media and vision rights marriage had been consummated while those dastardly Victorian were giving Tabcorp grief and refusing to roll over and dance to the tune of the jolly green giant.
Bartley’s almost overnight conversion to being regarded as a well-researched investigative racing journalist on all things associated with TVN has not been the result of a “white light” near death experience: His makeover has the words “inside information” written all over it.
Nothing wrong with that. It’s part and parcel of the racing media’s generally fruitless attempts to stay relevant. But, for amusement, let’s play the speculation game as to the sources providing such “excellent” information to the news hounds at Fairfax media. And it does not take an Einstein to join the dots together and speculate on who they might be.
Apart from a Tabcorp whistle blower, there is a very strong possibility and near certain probability that a “serial leaker”- eeeeeeew- in Sydney’- the same “serial leaker” who very successfully undermined many of TVN’s sensitive negotiations with non-Tabcorp/Sky Channel media including the Seven network to NSW print media- has been at it again to Fairfax media in bleak city with a continuing flow of juicy information to apply the blow torch to the belly of Racing Victoria.
This same “serial leaker” has long been regarded as one of Tabcorp’s strongest supporters, championing its interests and using his tried and tested successful strategy of confrontation and war to render the enemy irrelevant.
TVN has been in his sights from day one of its chequered and all too short life span.
There could even be a ménage a trois of sources with a prominent bleak city racing figure who has a track record of accessing sensitive information from its governing body and who has long been a cheer leader for leading figures in NSW racing.
That said, it hasn’t been all plain sailing for Bartley. After a succession of “investigative” stories, he made the mistake of venturing into territory that clearly is beyond his comfort zone or expertise – writing an opinion piece. And the subject of his opinion piece – newly minted Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula, below.
Going for the jugular, Bartley opined, “After being sworn in nearly four months ago, Martin Pakula has proved himself one of the most disappointing ministers to oversee horseracing, harness racing and greyhound racing in this State since the ministry was created”.
This was just one example of a disjointed and poor piece of opinion writing that had many in bleak city questioning the motives behind this outburst. Bartley couldn’t even get a basic fact right.
Bleak city’s new Government is less than three months old, with its first parliamentary sitting just last week. Pakula has been racing Minister for all of ten or eleven weeks. Hardly sufficient time for Bartley in his judge and jury role to make any form of credible judgment on the performance of the new Minister.
Having shot himself so badly in the foot and successfully leaving himself, and Fairfax, on the outer with the new Minister, both Bartley and Fairfax should be hastily seeking to heal the self-harm that they have inflicted on themselves.
To Pakula’s credit he has not taken the bait and fuelled a war of words, which would have given Bartley and Fairfax more cheap shots at the new Racing Minister and the State Government.
The lesson for Bartley, in particular, is two-fold: Keep opinion piece writing to those who are more skilled than you and can play the ball and not the man.
The most successful “investigative” journos the world over are those who are beholden to no one and are smart enough not to be treated like disposable gloves.
There’s a lesson in there for you, Patrick.
PETE PLAYS THE MOODY BLUES BLAME GAME (AGAIN)
Has Peter Moody ever left his school days behind him? The days when you could do what you like, and when things went off the rails, you could blame someone else for your misfortune?
Those were the days, weren’t they Pete, just like the lyrics in Mary Hopkin’s wonderful song?
Apparently not, if you read the News Limited’s Herald Sun’s Monday edition. Pete was at his best, playing the game that he just doesn’t play well at all – the blame game.
Peter Moody should be one of racing’s poster boys. He should be one of racing’s best advertisements. But sadly, he’s not.
His all too common, ill-judged, ill-tempered and, often, vituperative outbursts on matters of importance in the racing stratosphere have only served to reinforce the increasing perception among his peers and in the racing community that he falls into the “if I can’t win I won’t play” category of many in the sporting world.
Moody’s latest version of a “dummy spit” in the Herald Sun took him into territory that he should have been advised to avoid entering.
Protesting your innocence at being embroiled in the cobalt scandal is one thing. But to play for high stakes by reminding the racing industry and racing public of his own perceived contribution to racing – “I like to think I am an ambassador for the racing industry. I can only back my own record and I want to be remembered for that” is a bit too rich.
Surely, Pete, you’re not implying “diplomatic immunity”, which goes with the role of an ambassador, are you?
Peter, it might be if you take a chill pill and just be a tad patient, as difficult as that may be for you, wait for the outcome on the stewards investigation and then let the racing community and the broader general community be the judge.
But crossing the line in the blame game and making statements like this to the author of the article Rod Nicholson makes one wonder whether you are seeking any sort of advice before shooting your mouth off with Pythonesque absurdity: “Unfortunately some people in your line of work (media) continue finding a negative in this great industry instead of a positive . It would be nice to see a positive on the front pages instead of a negative”.
Taking on the “fourth estate” at any time can be dangerous and ill-advised. After all, the pen is still mightier than the sword, yet again demonstrating the validity of one of life’s great truisms: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and prove it beyond doubt”.
A simple statement reminding the journalist/interviewer that an investigation was in place and the inappropriateness of making a comment was all that was needed. But to then imply that the media should only run “good news” stories demonstrates a naivety beyond comprehension for a supposedly worldly adult.
Not only is it embarrassing for a self-proclaimed “ambassador” of racing, but for racing itself to find one of its best known names making such a damn fool of himself.
Then again, the racing community has become accustomed to such ill-mannered and ill-judged outbursts.
How can one ever forget the one man crusade against handing over the keys to his stable to the stewards, which now has its own place in the lexion of racing vocabulary, referred to as the “keys saga”.
It was the beginning of Moods’ fall from grace from his self-proclaimed role of “ambassador” and. more pertinently, retaining the respect of his fellow trainers whom he lashed out with some very colourful descriptions and language at the time for failing to support his crusade.
Tragically for racing, the mud slinging at Peter Moody has been a double body blow – to Moody himself and to racing.
The boy from outback Queensland heading south to the “big smoke” and becoming a household name through his outstanding training deeds with the greatest racehorse to have ever graced the turf in recent memory – Black Caviar- is the stuff that not only dreams are made of, but could not have been better scripted for a best seller and box office record breaker. It might still be, but for not the right reasons.
HAS ANYONE SEEN OR HEARD FROM MICHAEL BURN?
He just might be bleak city racing’s “invisible man”. A merchant banker in his working incarnation, and possibly, in hiding under a rock somewhere, Michael Burn is also chairman of Australia’s premier racing club and one of the country’s oldest sporting institutions – the VRC.
It is hard to identify any major business enterprise or large scale sporting organization that has operated without a permanent Chief Executive for nearly twelve months as the VRC has done for the past year.
During that time, we are led to believe Burn has failed to lure his preferred candidate, Rowan Craigie from his plush Crown Casino confines to take on the VRC role at a rumoured seven figure annual package.
Seven figures for a VRC Chief Executive? The residual damage to Burn’s reputation and judgment, we are told, has been significant, leaving a Committee divided and the loss of a highly regarded Committeeman and future Chairman in Tim Poole.
Fortunately for Burn and the VRC Committee, the Club has operated and functioned successfully, and without incident and accident during this period.
Under the leadership of its Acting Chief Executive, Julian Sullivan, the VRC has been able to stage one of the most successful spring racing carnivals in recent times- no mean feat in confronting the many challenges in successfully staging such an iconic event.
One would think that having undergone such a successful audition over the past year or so, Sullivan would have been the obvious and standout candidate for the role?
Clearly, Michael Burn appears keen to head hunt a glamour candidate with commercial cache, whatever the price- high risk strategy with the scrap heap and an undignified exit beckoning if he gets it wrong.
The whispers and murmurs among the key power brokers in bleak city suggest that unlike his predecessor Rod Fitzroy, who commanded widespread respect, the jury is well and truly out on Michael Burn.
Like Tony Abbott, he might just be a tap on the shoulder away from a valedictory speech.
YOU’RE “OVERARCHING” US, SHANE ALONG WITH YOUR MAN SAL.
Shane Anderson is fast becoming racing’s “Mr Everywhere Man”. The host of RSN’s morning show can ask some very pertinent and awkward questions of his guests despite the difficult dual role he plays in racing as a journalist.
He can, and should, ask the hard questions of administrators, who, at the same time, is an editorial contributor to the Racing Victoria owned racing.com and asks the hard questions of those who, directly or indirectly, sign his pay cheques. It must make it difficult for him, but to be fair to Shane, he can and does turn the heat up when required on some of the bleak city administrators.
Shane, however, is also someone who is not scared of pursuing causes. Like his push for an “overarching” integrity body to oversee the integrity functions of all three racing codes. Over arching?
Deconstructed into everyday language, it refers to an umbrella type body or structure with a team of stewards working across all three codes and reporting independently to – guess who?- the Victorian Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna. Oh, no, no, no, Shane-o.
It just so happens that Our Man Sal has been pushing for this same type of “overarching” body for some time. Hmmmm.
This week’s push for- and, boy, are we bored shitless of the term- an “overarching” body-has gained momentum over the past few days in the wake of the horrific ‘live’ baiting scandal that has administrators, animal activists, the media and just about anyone who cares to voice an opinion rushing around like startled rabbits with their own thoughts on who is to blame and scrambling to identify anyone involved in the dishlickers who has not been a ”live baiter”.
The problem for Shane and His Man Sal is that the one “Overarching” integrity body in Australia – the Racing Queensland Integrity unit- failed to stamp out this abomination of gross cruelty which was being practiced right under their noses in the Sunshine State.
And questions need also to be asked of Our Man Sal, who has been in the Integrity Commissioner role for five or so years.
It would be fair to ask if Our Man Sal ever thought to make inquiries as to whether, what was such a common practice in the training of greyhounds in the not too distant past. was still in use today.
Apparently not, judging by his response expressing “shock” after the Four Corners program was aired last Monday.
But Our Man Sal is a smart operator. He’s onto a good thing and has been given the green light to conduct an “own motion” inquiry (his words) to uncover the depth and extent of the scandal. Crikey, no.
Judging by the time it took him to conduct his “own motion” inquiry into the Damien Oliver betting episode some time ago, we should not hold our breath waiting for the results of the “own motion” inquiry soon.
“Overarching”, “Own Motion”. Really? Is there even a remote chance that those who ought to know better can steer clear of meaningless terminology and corporate speak which is such a massive blah blah turnoff?