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Tone of a hated note from Cardinal George Pell lingers

For weeks now, I've been looking for a note. It was penned to me, years ago, when I presented the Mornings radio program on ABC. It was kept in my top drawer, then, and every now and again, I'd pull it out and read it.

The exact words escape me but it was short and direct; a complaint about an interview I had conducted.

"It was only a few sentences... it's the tone I remember."
"It was only a few sentences... it's the tone I remember."  Photo: Andrew Dyson

The complainant believed I had been unfair. Discriminatory perhaps. That I had listened to one side, without reference to the other; that I should be more careful. Ashamed perhaps.

If you make your income presenting a radio show, or appearing on television, or writing a column, you can't afford to be precious.

The abuse is as predicable as my children's lunch boxes. And that's particularly the case when it comes to politics. Those, passionately committed to the Left, see you - almost automatically - as part of a clique supporting the Right. And those on the Right, with the same blinkered judgement, are quick to accuse you of being part of a Leftist lynch mob.

Once, when I admitted on radio that I did not vote or chose to vote informally as a working journalist, the complaints became more abusive. I should be charged with abrogating my responsibilities.

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But this note, that I kept close by, didn't accuse me of a political agenda. It didn't sink to using profanities, or reference to my children - a below-the-belt game played too often by those who want to complain.

But it was just as perspicuous. And it didn't threaten legal action, but that's what hung over each word.

It was only a few sentences, which I won't try to reproduce, because I can't find the note, and I can't remember the exact words. But certainly it portrayed an interview I conducted as unfair. I was wrong. I should know better than to air such incorrect information. In fact now, years later, the specific words are not important. It was the tone I remember. I hated it.

It showed no understanding of what the subject of my 15-minute interview was trying to portray. It carried no compassion for the subject, or the person who had me openly crying, on radio. It did not carry a shred of empathy.

The note was all about my failings in conducting the interview.

The person I was interviewing, whose heart had been shredded time and time again, barely rated a mention.

You've read about that person many times: Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were raped by a priest while in primary school and whose husband Anthony confronted Cardinal George Pell this week outside the hearing at the Hotel Quirinale.

The note will turn up some time. It doesn't matter really if it doesn't, because I'll never forget the signature. George Pell.


 

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