IT WAS an effortless transition when young Chip Rolley left behind all he had done to make the Sydney Writers Festival what it is and slipped with unfussed grace and certainty into the editor’s chair at The Drum, a job that might have been made for him. Wit, intelligence, insight, a record of stellar achievement – all those recommendations would be taxed as the new editorial supremo set about making his mark, which he did with characteristic aplomb. As visitors to the national broadcaster’s opinion site may have noticed, all articles, like this one, are now preceded by a bold-faced sentence or two which summarise what is to come and, very often, feature very few spelling mistakes. As Web Diary’s finalincarnation withered and vanished, the first real step toward government support for quality journalism has been taken. Thanks to Chip’s innovation and the taxpayer’s largesse, the craft of Margolian boldening will live on.
The weight of such responsibility can be a burden, however, sometimes putting the squeeze on other, earlier obligations for want of time and stamina. The signs are that this is happening right now in the Rolley household, where it is apparent that girlfriend Anne Summers is missing her prodigy’s guiding hand and counsel. Consider the evidence, which is conclusive.
Just a year or so ago, Summers’ literary output touched every base, as her Monthly expose of Andrew Bolt and his toxic lineage makes clear. Bringing to bear her awesome thoroughness, Summers revealed that Bolt’s mum lived as a 12-year-old in a Dutch town with a Nazi mayor. Further, she tracked down the columnist’s long-ago girlfriend to paint a picture of a man whose mistreatment of women falls not too far short of the O.J. Simpson standard. It was quality journalism, as all the other quality journalists agreed, and Summers was feted for the triumph of her tenacious probing.
But how much of it was her own work, eh? This question needs to be posed because there is something missing, almost fishy, about Summers’ profile of toothy Tanya Plibersek, which appeared in last Saturday’s Good Weekend.
However did Summers neglect to mention that Plibersek’s parents fled Slovenia after World War Two, when those who sided with the German invaders were being hunted down by Tito’s partisans. If Bolt’s adolescent mother-to-be’s exposure to a Nazi mayor was worth mentioning, surely Summers should have hinted, if not highlighted, the parents’ immersion in the fascist cesspit.
And there are worse oversights, much worse. Had Summers checked the archives she would have been able to include the fact that, in an Adelaide courtroom, a certain Mr Plibersek from “the Mildura migrant camp”,was named as having slept with another man’s wife. The first names do not quite match, but not to worry. Quality journalism means making connections, and Summers is very much the quality journalist, so much so Australia Post has issued a stamp in her honour.
Many purchased. Few licked.
Or is she? Surely, and with no less certainty than she brings to her own exposes, we can easily suppose what has happened. With poor Chip up to his neck in bolding initiatives, a very large salary to be justified and The Drum’s escutcheon in need of burnishing, the youngster just did not have a spare moment to sit down with his squeeze and stop her inscribing for the record what amounts to a string of senior moments. For example, early on in her Plibersek profile Summers draws a picture of the dire poverty in Oyster Bay, where the future Cabinet member was raised. Mum had to use a washboard, Summers relates, and there were few TVs in the neighbourhood, which seems a dubious assertion given that it is the Seventies she is writing about. And it grows more suspect a few paragraphs later, when we are led to share a warm family memory of 3-year-old Tanya atop Poppa’s lap as the family gathered around the telly in their hovel.
This is serious stuff, this failure on Summers’ part to bang all the required gongs in quality journalism’s temple of truth. If Chip cares about his partner, really cares, he should stop reporting for work at The Drum. Few would notice and, if they did, who could deny that Summers has reached the stage where she needs full-time care?