In 2018, Emma Alberici, the chief economics correspondent for ABC continued in her position despite the publishing of two controversial articles about corporate tax.
The news story and analysis piece was riddled with errors and also claimed incorrectly that Qantas was unfairly targeted for a failure to pay tax. In fact, a series of large losses had been carried over which wasn’t mentioned in the article.
Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie made apologies about the editorial process in a letter to communications minister Mitch Field. The pieces underwent major revisions before being republished after external complaints were received from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, among others.
Guthrie explained to a senate hearing that both pieces had gone through the online sub-editing process but were not referred to more senior editors for further checking before their publication.
She acknowledged the lapse, saying the organisation had ‘clearly failed’ and explained that steps had been taken by ABC News and editorial policies to avoid something similar in the future. Guthrie mentioned that efforts were now concentrated on fixing the editorial process rather than apportioning blame.
Within 90 minutes of publication, Gaven Morris, news director, had initiated a review of the articles, according to the head of editorial, Alan Sunderland.
Although Sunderland didn’t agree with the view that Alberici’s pieces were full of errors, he did mention that certain issues could have been more clearly contextualised and better expressed.
Meanwhile, Alberici who defended her reputation on Twitter faced an ongoing internal probe by ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Unit.
Under fire at the same time was the ABCs handling of the Canberra Files. The government documents were discovered inside a used filing cabinet sold by a Canberra thrift shop.
ABC should have pushed the stories, rather than giving in to the authorities demands that the files be returned, say critics both within ABC news and externally.
In response to those incidents, a restructure of the senior editorial positions took place.