Australia fires: Employee brands News Corp coverage ‘irresponsible’

Australia fires: Employee brands News Corp coverage ‘irresponsible’

An employee of Australian media organisation News Corp has lashed out at the company for “irresponsible” coverage of the current bushfires engulfing parts of the country.

News Corp owns The Australian, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun.

Emily Townsend, a commercial finance manager at the organisation, said coverage of the crisis had diverted attention away from climate change.

Bushfires have ravaged many parts of the country for weeks.

At least 27 people have died.

Ms Townsend sent the email after an all-staff message was sent from executive chairman Michael Miller sharing bushfire-related incentives.

She said the email regarding fundraising and other support initiatives did not “offset the impact News Corp reporting has had over the past few weeks”.

“News Corp’s decision to take this approach in such a devastating time for our country, communities and the environment is a step too far for any of us stakeholders to ignore and continue with our daily tasks without thinking for a minute about what we are contributing to,” she added.

News Corp is owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

The Australian has been criticised for its coverage of the fires. In one article it said the blazes were “nothing new”. It did say that climate change could not be ruled out as a cause before adding: “Climate change or no, these are some of the costs of being in one of the most fire prone regions in the world.”

It also was supportive of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to take a holiday to Hawaii. A commentary piece said: “We can’t blame him for wanting to take a well-earned break with his family, skip Monday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook surplus backtrack or escape the smoke from the bushfires surrounding Sydney.”

Mr Miller told the Sydney Morning Herald Ms Townsend resigned in December and was due to leave shortly.

“The dedication and professionalism of our journalists and photographers have kept the community – particularly those Australians affected directly – informed and supported,” he added.

What is the current situation with the fires?

On the New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria border, fires have merged to create a mega-blaze, covering more than 640,000 hectares of land.

More than 174 fires are still burning across NSW with 65 said to be uncontained.

According to NSW Rural Fire Service, more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed so far during this fire season.

In Victoria, residents of Wodonga were evacuated overnight. There is one emergency warning in place in the state.

Volunteers treat a Koala on Kangaroo Island
At least 25,000 koalas are estimated to have died on Kangaroo Island in South Australia

In South Australia, firefighters are still tackling bushfires on Kangaroo Island. On Thursday, the island’s mayor Michael Pengilly described the situation there as “hell on earth”. At least 25,000 koalas are estimated to have died on the island.

David Bowman, a professor of pyrogeography from the University of Tasmania told the BBC that the implications of the current fires in Australia could not be underestimated.

“We’ve got fires that are still burning, transforming landscapes, wiping out wildlife – Australia’s not going to be the same after this. The consequences of this will be around for hundreds of years,” he said.

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