A worthless prize

Well, I imagine the prize had value before, but it's hard to see that value being maintained with decisions like this.
The Herald's chief correspondent, Paul McGeough, has been named the 2004 winner of the Graham Perkin Award for Australian Journalist of the Year. McGeough, a former editor of the Herald and a winner of the Perkin award in 1997, won mainly for his reporting and writing on post-invasion Iraq.

Two other Herald journalists were highly commended. The literary editor, Malcolm Knox, was commended for exposing Norma Khouri's book Forbidden Love as a fabrication. Jane Cadzow was commended for her strong collection of features published in the Good Weekend magazine, including one that ultimately ended the political career of federal parliamentary secretary Ross Cameron.
Both Knox and Cadzow's efforts showed much more journalistic ability, but since the prize is sponsored by Australia's most left-wing mainstream newspaper (The Age), and the panel is led by the ABC's Kerry O'Brien, it's pretty clear that facts don't seem to matter. Which is why we get this:
The judges said they had made no informed assessment of McGeough's report on allegations that Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, had executed six suspected insurgents in a prison in Baghdad which had still been neither conclusively confirmed nor disproved. The Herald stands by McGeough's report.
Hmm. The claim was that Allawi shot six prisoners, but there's a few problems:

- Allawi had never visited the prison.
- Allawi doesn't carry a gun.
- The witnesses didn't know the date.
- One witness says Allawi asked for a pistol, and another witness said he took it from his belt.
- One witness says Allawi shot six, another seven. Or was it "as many as six"?
- McGeough's two witnesses have no identity.

That's brilliant journalism right there - not much over the level of Indy Media. I don't see them winning journalism awards though - and there's a reason for that. But that's not the only horrid failure of McGeough's reports from Iraq. He's also been one of the biggest "it's going to descend into civil war" fearmongers the world has ever seen - he even talked about it in September 2002 as being a potential aim of the US. Here's a list of articles where McGeough has either talked about civil war in Iraq as being a likely outcome, or where Iraq is already very close to civil war:

- March 6, 2003
- March 27, 2003
- April 15, 2003
- November 19, 2003
- March 4, 2004
- March 13, 2004
- March 20, 2004
- March 21, 2004
- April 9, 2004
- April 10, 2004
- May 15, 2004
- June 26, 2004
- June 28, 2004
- September 11, 2004
- October 17, 2004
- January 20, 2005
- January 29, 2005
- January 30, 2005
- January 31, 2005
- February 1, 2005
- February 14, 2005

So much for the 21 predictions of civil war - it hasn't happened yet. But wait - in 2002, he said that Afghanistan was "two bullets away from civil war". That hasn't happened yet either. So why is McGeough winning a prize for journalism? Generally, if someone makes that many predictions of a civil war, it should at least come vaguely close to being true for his status as a 'respected journalist' to remain.

(Cross-posted to The House Of Wheels.)

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