Senior Investigative Journalist Quits “Botched” And “Dysfunctional” ABC

BuzzFeed News obtains foreign correspondent Trevor Bormann’s incendiary resignation note.

1. One of Australia’s most decorated journalists has walked out on the ABC, slamming the “confusing” and “dysfunctional” Sydney newsroom while likening middle managers to Nazi officers.

Trevor Bormann did not wait to see whether he’d face the latest round of ABC cuts, instead shocking managers and resigning last month. The 29-year ABC veteran published a passionate Facebook post about the situation facing the organisation, now widely shared among a demoralised ABC staff.

BuzzFeed News has obtained the note and it gives an eye-opening insider look at what’s happening at the national broadcaster under the leadership of Managing Director Mark Scott and Director of News and Current Affairs Kate Torney.

Lukas Coch / AAP

Lukas Coch / AAP

 

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott and Director of ABC News and Current Affairs Kate Torney face Senate estimates over decision to cuts 100 journalists and restructure operations.

“In the past two years the ABC has implemented a confusing and unworkable restructure of its Sydney (national) newsroom, the botched makeover prescribed by hugely expensive international consultants. The place is dysfunctional, as anyone in Sydney and throughout the interstate network it dominates can attest,” wrote Bormann, a senior foreign correspondent who has reported from Afghanistan, Somalia and South East Asia.

“I know of ABC managers who are reluctantly prosecuting this purge, they know their own jobs are safe but down the track they’ll seek solace and justify themselves in the Nuremberg defence – ‘they made me do it’.”

Bormann is one of Australia’s most acclaimed investigative journalists. His most recent high-profile report, “Prisoner X” for Foreign Correspondent, won the 2013 Walkley for investigative journalism and the 2014 Logie for Most Outstanding Public Affairs Report.

5. Another senior ABC reporter has told BuzzFeed News that Bormann’s criticisms are shared by a large percentage of senior and junior staff.

The ABC cuts process has pitted experienced, award-winning reporters into a battles for their jobs - what staff have now widely called the ABC’s “Hunger Games”.

Speaking to BuzzFeedNews, Bormann insisted his comments are a response to the latest manifestation of a newsroom restructure that began several years ago, which is now being formalised after last week’s proposal to sack 100 journalists around Australia.

“A potential money saver for the ABC is to get rid of a layer of middle editorial supervisors who impede the functionality of the operation,” he wrote in the note.

“Management says this is about money and they’re right. It’s about nothing else –experience, expertise, proven ability, near death in a war zone counts for nothing.”

Bormann said he’ll take some time to reconsider his next job. His parting shot comes on the eve of the 2014 Walkley Awards Thursday night.

“I respect that in the current situation my peers might want to walk face to the ground, avoiding eye contact,” he wrote.

“If it’s your livelihood at stake, I can’t blame you.”

7. UPDATE 1200 AEST: A spokeswoman for Director of News and Current Affairs Kate Torney issued the following statement to BuzzFeed News

“Mr Bormann resigned from the ABC. We have no comment to make on what he chooses to post on his private Facebook page.

We know this is a difficult and stressful time for staff. We are working through a consultation process with staff and unions.”

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Mark Di Stefano is a political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
 
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