Dear Daily Telegraph…

It’s important that we speak.

When my sister was four she made my Mum buy some tissues with Bananas in Pyjamas on the box. My sister expected to open the box and find the same brightly coloured printing on the tissues themselves. When she didn’t, she was aghast. Mum’s response was to help her write a kind letter to the tissue company, politely asking for an explanation. She wanted to instil in her girls the idea that peaceful action could promote positive outcomes.

The tissue company replied very sweetly a few days later, and attached their letter to a complimentary box of tissues. My sister was so happy with the reply that she forgot all about the fact that she wasn’t blowing her nose on B1 and B2 themselves. Instead it seemed perfectly logical to her that the importance of cost-effective production methods outweighed the ethical ramifications of disappointing small children.

The point of that little anecdote was to let you know that this letter will be a great deal more scathing than my sister’s letter seventeen years ago, I will not sit around expecting a kind response from you, nor do I want any complimentary copies of your disgraceful excuse for a newspaper.

Australians appear time and time again to acknowledge your drawbacks as a news source, yet forgive you when you titillate them once again. I was hoping this would be the final nail in the coffin but I won’t hold my breath. Instead, I have few bones to pick regarding your abominable excuse for journalism.

1. How dare you use the hashtag #illridewithyou. 

Let me get this straight; you don’t hesitate to run a rushed out ‘2pm special-edition’ with a double page spread all ablaze with the ‘Islamic State attack on the CBD’. While the NSW Police Force are handling the precarious situation with the utmost responsibility, not to mention risking their lives by trying to ensure the safety of the people involved, you do the most irresponsible thing possible – you run a manipulative, calculating, blatantly untrue story designed to breed hatred.

Then, you try and absolve yourself of all responsibility by jumping on the #illridewithyou bandwagon, with the hope that in a couple of days everybody will want to ride with you. This all happens while you look for ways to ignore the fact that movements like this come to exist partly because of your alarmist lies.

You have acted abhorrently

2. Of course, I’m not apportioning all the blame to you…

You’ll notice I said partly. That’s because I was pretty appalled by a whole host of media outlets reporting on the Sydney Siege. Channel 10, for example, published an alleged list of demands by the perpetrator after being explicitly asked not to do so. That was pretty appalling.

And some blame, of course, has to lie with the people who rushed out to buy your ‘2pm special-edition’, relieved that they could stop sounding out the words on the ABC website.

I’m not blind. I see persuasive reporting everywhere. I see sensationalism and I was taught to deconstruct the way words were put together. You guys, though, you went above and beyond anything and everything any other media outlet could have come up with yesterday. Actually – correction – you went below, you went all the way down to the slimy depths of the underworld of false reporting, and then you rolled around gleefully like utter sociopaths.

I’m willing to bet money that the next thug who abuses a Muslim woman on the train for wearing a hijab read your spread and decided to take up the great Australian cause. I’m willing to bet that the next fair dinkum Aussie, who feels hard done by because the Iranian refugee on the cleaning nightshift could hold down a job while he couldn’t, absorbed your wonderfully informative article and felt like he had a group of top mates.

But that’s okay guys, because even though you issued no retraction or apology, you spun up a story using #illridewithyou. Everything is forgiven. After all, compassion is your strong suit.

3. Speaking of a retraction and apology…

Any plans for that? No? Instead you’ve got Rupie Murdoch taking to Twitter to ‘congratulate’ you for being first on the ‘bloody’ scene. Three people are dead; two of those people were innocent. Their lives have been extinguished. I know this is the guy that classifies Egyptians as ‘white’, but really, ‘congrats’ was pretty much the most repugnant thing I saw all day.

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4. ISIS would like to send you a hundred autographed flags, speaking of congratulations…

Congratulations! You’ve successfully broken the record for most ISIS high-fives given out for a single unrelated incident. That’s right, they high-fived when you put their name on the front page of your paper, they high-fived again when you reposted their sickening ‘laughing’ video and they high-fived because they didn’t want this crazy nutter in their group anyway. He lacked a specific agenda, he didn’t hesitate to abandon his ‘Islamic’ ideology when he saw a more opportune moment to sexually assault a bunch of people, and up until a few weeks ago, he despised ISIS’ interpretation of ‘Islam’.

All this high-fiving but no one’s hands are getting sore. Why? Because ISIS didn’t have to lift one murderous finger to carry out the act themselves – you did it all for them. That’s the real congratulations here.

5. It’s not your first time…

Not even your second. You’re seasoned professionals. That’s right, your upstanding team of editors have a track record for being utterly foul. And I’m not even talking about your blatant political bias day after day and twice on Sundays. I’m talking about your consistent and unrelenting vilification of minorities in Australia; I’m talking about your xenophobic rhetoric and your obsession with societal fear mongering. I’m talking about that time you photoshopped Mike Carlton’s face in traditional Arab attire on to the face of a Boston bombing victim. Was that funny to you?

Sure, this letter is just another angry letter, and you’re a big corporation. Sure, it’ll probably end up in the ‘angry mail we received over that ISIS thing that wasn’t even ISIS, oops’ pile. Sure, you can do no wrong in some people’s eyes and they’ll ignore this because it makes them feel oddly uncomfortable. The reason I’m writing this letter is to let you know that this isn’t going to fly forever – that even though you’re hoping I’ll just spontaneously combust out of pure revulsion for you, I won’t.

Not yet anyway – because I want to be there when your rotten excuse for a newspaper falls magnificently from grace, and trust me, it will.

Kind Regards,

Caitlin Caldwell.

29 thoughts on “Dear Daily Telegraph…

  1. Dear Caitlin, I am a media ethicist at the University of Melbourne and I am writing an article for The Conversation about the performance of the media in covering the siege. I am especially interested in your reference to the ISIS high fives. Would you be kind enough to tell me where I might see those for myself? Yours is a very strong piece, I should say, and has spurred me to write myself. Regards, Dr Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne


  2. They did the same when my son was murdered ran him down into the ground stating what his killers thought of him and what there motive was . I had to put up with shit for 2 yrs with the press believing the make up lies told by my Son’s killers. Until the day the VERDICT was delivered and the truth came out . They hounded me for a story non stop. I told them all where to go. They only write what they think that will draw readers in. They are a bunch of ASSHOLES.


    • Denise,

      My deepest condolences for the loss of your son. The media can be extremely cruel, and some crueller than others. Take solace in the fact that this incident has shed new light on the often disgusting tactics of papers like this.




      • Thank you much appreciated. This time of year is a very emotional whirlwind for my family, as this should never have happened.Once again the justice system has let another family down leading to my son’s death.


  3. I was hearing stuff reported directly by a policeman on duty in Sydney at the time. In the beginning from a copper on the ground’s perspective, as it was happening, it was appearing to be an organised affiliated effort, they were told of bomb’s in the opera house and in the queen victoria building, none of that was put to media in that time frame. It is as it was, some asshole inflicted terror and the ultimate act of murder, and you whine about media broadcast and a positive ‘i’ll ride with you campaign’ shame on you.


    • Gem,

      Completely incorrect. A mentally-unstable, clearly disturbed man made reference to hidden explosive devices around the Sydney CBD. The official police statement, however, begged for calm preceding the official determination of the situation, and the Daily Telegraph blatantly circulated a story for ratings, failing to blur out faces of hostages and promoting hysteria, which is never appropriate in any situation. I am clearly not whining about the ‘I’ll ride with you campaign’, incorrect again. If you take this for ‘whining’ (I would call it constructing an opinion), I clearly state that such campaigns are necessary precisely because of the fear mongering of media outlets such as the Daily Telegraph, who then, to again boost their ratings pretended that they had not played a part in facilitating the hysteria in the first place .In reference to the infliction of terror and act of murder, I explicitly condemn trivialising it in such a way as displayed by Murdoch, although I note that you have ignored that part. Most confusingly, you state ‘it is as it was’. Well, no, it wasn’t. There was not one part of that Daily Telegraph spread that was true – they had not been contacted by the perpetrator, they had not waited for an official police statement and they got the situation utterly, utterly wrong. It would have been more true if they’d simply written ‘some asshole inflicted terror’, as you said.

      Good day.


      • If “Gem” is in fact telling the truth here (and I must say that in my experience these type of trolling comments are often written by those who play fast and loose with the truth in the mistaken belief that any end justifies the means) I would advise him/her to tell their policeman “friend” that their behaviour is probably the most unprofessional way that they could have acted under the circumstances. Could they verify the information not to be rumour? Even if there was truth to any of the story, how could they think there was any justification AT ALL in passing such information on to the public in this manner at that stage? Shame, in fact, on you, Gem, and the policeman you mention. None of that actually even WAS true, was it?


  4. Wow! What a clear and forthright opinion! Well done. My hope is that out of all this ghastly fear mongering and hate generation that more people like you make it abundantly clear that it is not on, that we will not tolerate this attempt to manipulate the population just to make more money and sell more of their filth


  5. Dear Caitlin,

    Thank you for your eloquent dissection of the Telegraph’s “news” reporting on this terrible event. And Murdoch is wrong. His paper was not the sole media outlet there when it all went so mad after 2am! The countless visual replays are evidence of that 😦

    Warm regards,
    Kerry Gestier


  6. Why is anyone surprised? The “Daily Telegraph” is like the print edition of TV’s “Frontline”, only that show was fictional and satirical, whereas the DT is all too (sickeningly) real…


  7. Very well written Caitlin. I read The Telegraph (a free copy!) yesterday and I thought it was ridiculing #illridewithyou. I remember that Miranda Devine did (in my opinion she will always take the controversial stance, no matter what, so her opinion is irrelevant anyway) and I thought I saw other stories mentioning it with scorn. I felt surprised at the backlash. I may be wrong.


  8. This is an incredible piece of writing. As a rule, I generally avoid the Telegraph as I believe it is a poor excuse for journalism. But the headline and timing of the article alone is demonstrative enough of their ignorance and ruthlessness. No shame.


  9. Well said
    I live in adelaide where we only have News Corp papers.
    The appaling Advertiser & the even worse Sunday Mail.
    Haven’t bought either for decades.
    If I was to ever read it I know that I would end up throwing it across the room yelling
    “You call that journalism? That’s not journalism.
    My cats a better journalist than that.

    I’m sure someone has already twittered your letter to Murdock
    But just to be on the safe side I had better do it too!


  10. It’s almost as if they are desperate for it to have been truly a terrorist attack as though they have this sick psychopathic need to be like London or New York. Me tooism at its most egregious


  11. brilliant article. media that sells papers based on lies designed to incite rage in the population — this is a major security threat to the health and wellbeing of our communities…thank you for writing this — I will repost to the media accountability community I am a part of: ‘Real Media Real Change’


  12. Wonderful post. As for the Telegraphs’ eye-catching headline this morning regarding Morrison’s move to a new portfolio. Well, Everyone on a government benefit is a bludger aren’t they? Those scumbags of retired Armed Forces personnel, drought-affected farmers, the disabled, war widows, the elderly, the people sacked by the in-coming government, people with children…

    Why not move him to the Education portfolio instead and cut ALL funding to private schools? That’ll save a few bob.


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