Jane Hansen has reported having nightmares about events from her journalism past that haunt her to this day. The things that haunt us in this life are often those things where we know that we could have done better, we know if we had followed what we truly know, the consequences of our actions might not have been what they had become. We can rationalise the circumstances, suggest that we had to do our job, what choice did we have? But there is always a choice, always.
And we have to ask Jane Hansen, what choices do journalists make when they choose one side of a story? It is a choice it seems to exclude balance. It is a choice to manipulate the news and what the public know when they only report what they want to report, rather than to offer their audience a choice as to discern the truth. It is a wielding of power with the arrogance of knowing that what they write will ‘make a difference’, but the only ‘difference’ is to entrench their own narrow world-view.
There is a style of journalism that is particularly offensive, generally referred to as the ‘tabloid press’, the writer has always considered that the Sunday Telegraph was of that ilk – a combination of news stories and sensationalism that provides easy reading, little considered argument and a guarantee of supporting a particularly parochial and limited view of humanity and society.
The ‘tabloid press’ finds its television expression in shows such as ‘A Current Affair’ and ‘Today Tonight’. Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that Jane Hansen, of the Sunday Telegraph found her feet in her career on no other than ‘A Current Affair’. Jane Hansen reports having been haunted by her time at ‘A Current Affair’ and has publicly reflected that she knew at least once that the story that she was going to cover was ‘not good’.
What does it mean to know that something you are going to do is wrong and do it anyway? In my books that would mean I was acting unethically or unconscionably. Perhaps a more damning reflection for Ms Hansen is that if we do not act in our own world to address what is wrong, what does not sit right with us, we contribute to a world that is less:
‘The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing’.
The world will not change if we do not stand up in our own lives and say no to what goes against our conscience and no matter how many stories we tell about others to suggest we ‘do the right thing’ in our lives, that we are ‘good people’, the falsehood of our own behaviour will haunt us.
In 1997 Jane Hansen hit the media spotlight after a particularly sordid story on ACA where an electronic repair man was framed by the show and exposed for not fixing some equipment he claimed to have fixed – the advertising for the show ran all weekend, and sadly the subject committed suicide.
This story has apparently haunted Hansen. On the ABC’s Australian Story, Hansen comments that:
‘It still really upsets me. It’s been 10 years. I think what gutted me the most was that two children were without a father and a wife was without a husband. I didn’t feel as though I had a right to talk about how I felt about the story because I wasn’t the victim. In everyone’s mind, I was the perpetrator.’
There is something troubling about this self-reflection – of course Jane Hansen could not predict the extreme consequences of her conduct – but that is not the point – how often do those involved in violent crime not foresee the outcome of their behaviour where aggravated assault becomes murder?
As Stuart Littlemore commented on Media Watch at the time (August 1997)
‘One sordid little entrapment too many and another unremarkable example of “A Current Affair’s” mindless succession of bullying righteousness, yields a result they will say they never foresaw. A little man, caught by a cheap deception far worse than anything he was accused of doing, despairs of ever living down the shame and takes his own life.’
Littlemore was unrelenting in his disdain, ‘These unspeakable bastards did however deceive Mr Mendoza and then set him up …’ . Littlemore in fact called it for what it was – indeed this ‘cheap deception’ was ‘far worse than anything’ their victim ‘was accused of doing.’
What I find troubling is that Ms Hansen knows that she had a role in this, yet years later, there is no real responsibility taken, she is still asserting it was her job, that she did not have a choice:
‘I was just doing my job and I know that’s the Nuremberg defence but I wasn’t in the position to say, “Shove it, I don’t think it’s a good story.” Which is how I felt anyway. I didn’t think it was a good story. It was my job and I wasn’t in a position to be a prima donna.’ (Australian Story)
After all, in her view, it was her producers who manufactured the story. However, Jane Hansen chose to go along with it, she did not speak up and question what was being done, indeed for that show It was simply yet another ‘unremarkable example’, a ‘mindless succession of bullying righteousness’ and Jane Hansen chose that form of journalism, and it seems she still chooses it.
Hansen was dished the same harsh treatment by the media that she dishes out, but although she reports being devastated by the events and suffered the media attacks for what occurred she appears to not have learnt that perhaps this approach is one sided – more balance is required.
What we can observe in her background is a resolute toughness, whether it was surviving workplace misogyny and bullying1, a tour in Iraq or the media spotlight, Jane Hansen appears to have built a pretty tough shell. Oddly Jane Hansen appears to write stories that are about needed social reform – workplace bullying, promotion of health by vaccination – but it must be considered against the fact that in her own life, when things mattered she chose to keep her head down and remain silent. We make the world by how we are in it – to standby and allow abuse is to ensure it is never abated.
She comments about workplace bullying that she endured:
So I stuck it out, the simmering injustice eating into sleep, affecting health and happiness. I wasn’t alone of course, and that helped take it less personally.’ 2
I am sympathetic to the situation, it is all-true – I have witnessed such a complaints procedure first hand; it is as Jane Hansen reports ‘a payout, a gag order and a pock-marked reputation’. But does that make us stand by and do nothing?
Jane Hansen was featured on Australian Story in 2007 about the loss of her prematurely born child. This is a tragic story and one of course that commands compassion and respect. What is puzzling is that she states in the programme that:
Her husband reflects that Jane became ‘more compassionate’ and Jane herself asserts a greater empathy for others that has arisen from tragedy. But would this life-changing moment signify fundamental change in how she works? Would it mean that she would take action to arrest harm if it would get in the way of a good story? Possibly not.
In spite of all of her seemingly compelling self-reflection, it appears that searing ambition must have returned – since Jane Hansen’s approach to Universal Medicine suggests a journalist hungry for a story, any story, no matter how false it is, or the methods required to get her angle.
Defending herself years later – when writing in defence of Mel Greig and Michael Christian, whose radio antics had precipitated the suicide of an English nurse when they had made a hoax call to a London Hospital pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles, humiliating the nurse so utterly who had been taken in by the pair that she took her own life as a consequence. Hansen’s own experience made her sympathetic to the radio pair, and whilst defending what most would consider indefensible, she wrote:
‘I can now write that for years I did not sleep, I woke with nightmares, I stifled panic attacks in media conferences when all my colleagues were there, perhaps casting a judgmental eye. I threw myself into the most dangerous pursuits in journalism – coups, wars, you name it – to regain some of the credibility I had lost. A few years later, I finally sought help for the post-traumatic stress disorder I had developed.
I simply couldn’t breathe.
In the boiler room that was A Current Affair back then, I couldn’t even tell the boss, or seek support, because exposing a soft underbelly in that joint would have done nothing but invite derision for such a “weakness”.’ 3
Judy Wilyman MSc (Population Health) presented a paper at a major conference – the world congress on Cancer Science and Therapy Congress in the USA in October 2013 on the HPV vaccine. At the time, Jane Hansen was writing a series of articles on vaccination and had taken on the anti-vaccination lobby in her mission to encourage vaccination. In this regard I am right behind Jane Hansen. No question. I am pro-vaccination all the way and I know that Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine rigorously promote vaccination. However, what I do question is a journalist deciding what ‘science’ is going to be reported. Jane Wilyman questioned Jane Hansen as to why the journalist would not present the scientific evidence that had been presented by her at the Congress, making the observation that “Australians should be concerned that journalists are now deciding which ‘science’ they will allow the public to see and debate.” 4
Jane Hansen responded:
‘Yes, I’ve read this. I’m going to go with the scientists and medicos who have studied this long and hard before I go with an ‘academic’ with no medical background who is a known anti-vaccine advocate. My guess is you have no background in science or medicine either, so please don’t bore me again with your conspiracy agendas.’
In effect, Hansen was selecting the ‘science’ that she deemed was acceptable and excluded any evidence that might be contrary to her own opinions on vaccination to be presented. This in itself is anathema to scientific discourse, let alone investigative journalism. To this dismissive response, Jane Wileyman made the acute observations: that Jane Hansen’s approach could be considered ‘incompetent reporting’ falling far short of an ‘objective discussion of the arguments’ and that dismissing the scientific material offered as no more than a ‘conspiracy’ theory prevented consideration of the possible bias in science being used in developing government policies. Presenting only the science that is considered personally acceptable is, it seems, tantamount to disseminating propaganda, not presenting news.
In this regard, Jane Hansen decided what was news – her spin was not even to report any considered debate on the subject. Jane Hansen would have been well aware that she could still make her ‘spin’ on the story, even if she had chosen to present another viewpoint. But excluding any debate at all is the power she could wield. To only present one side of the story appears to be Jane Hansen’s calling card – or so it appears from various examples of her reports. For example “Sorry Flower Children, but rainbows and unicorns won’t stop polio”, Sunday Telegraph, April 14, 2013, made very derisory assessments and generalisations of those who choose not to immunise. Just to be clear, I agree with Hansen’s views on immunisation – pro-immunisation all the way. Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine also take a pro-immunisation stance. However, I also consider that balanced reporting is a necessity in a free society. So her summation of the issue, as essentially a bunch of mindless hippies more concerned about their diet and self-improvement than sensible healthcare, falls far short of this requirement, as does her later fabrications for her article, “Byron backlash as parents immunise” that is discussed below. Others have observed that immunisation is a far more complex issue than Ms Hansen’s sledgehammer approach suggests 5.
It appears, from what I have observed, that Jane Hansen has made a practice of excluding an alternative viewpoint if she has already determined what the angle of her story will be.
In her recent foray into pseudo-investigative journalism, she reported Lance Martin and Matthew Sutherland’s malignant and twisted reminiscences of their failed relationships. Lance Martin is given centre stage to sell his version of a story – claiming that his marriage failed because of Universal Medicine, that an outrageous amount was spent on courses (‘$60,000 to $70,000…in the three years before they broke up’), and that his wife’s (and we presume his) life was ‘taken over’ in every aspect (‘eating, sex, activities, friends, literature’). None of these claims had any substance. If Anna Douglass had been contacted she would have set the record straight – that Lance Martin has made up stories to serve his agenda to bring Universal Medicine down and that he had to believe his own lies about the problems in the marriage to serve Lance Martin’s rationalisation for his marriage breakdown, all so he does not have to look at his own problems.
If she had bothered she would have discovered that what Lance Martin presented was fabrication. However, the excuse given is that Anna Douglass did not need to be approached, since the story was about the College of Universal Medicine, not the marriage. It was not ‘central’ to the story. It has to be asked, what does this say about journalism? Is it permissible to abandon any commitment to factual accuracy by deeming a particular part of a story as less important? We think not. If the story of the marriage was not central to the story, we have to ask, why did Hansen report the lies about the marriage at all and allow Martin free reign to continue his abuse of his wife without Hansen seeking evidence to the contrary? His claims about the break-up of the marriage, the money spent, and the impact on the couple’s personal life may not have been central to the story, but Lance Martin’s credibility was. It may have been pertinent for Jane Hansen to hear from Anna personally:
‘‘Lance is fuelled with jealously and revenge towards Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine for what he feels is the cause of our marriage breakdown, this of course is absolutely false. Lance is a very controlling and manipulative man and the choice to leave my marriage was due to his behaviour towards me. The smoke and mirrors that both Lance Martin and Matthew Sutherland use in their stories to gain public sympathy is an obvious tactic to smear and denigrate Sarah Baldwin and myself as women and to give us no voice.
What you may not know and I feel is important to stress to you, is that Lance has been behind all the media attacks to date and has been an active cyber-bully for over 2 years now, targeting innocent people because of their association with Universal Medicine. Interesting to note, there was no media interest in Universal Medicine, and not one complaint ever lodged with any Government departments until my marriage broke down. Lance has been consistent and relentless at getting any sort of attention and smearing Universal Medicine, he will go to extraordinary lengths, and will distort the truth to achieve this.’
Matthew Sutherland is given sole and centre stage for his soliloquy. There is no doubt of the slant that Jane Hansen took, the men’s lies are inferred to be fact and there was not a trace of questioning their account – Jane Hansen did not bother to approach the ex-partner’s to discern fabrication from fact. She made no investigation – none whatsoever.
In her response to Sutherland’s ex-partner’s complaint to the Sunday Telegraph that her side of the story had not been sought, nor had her permission to use a picture of herself and her children, Hansen has claimed that she had emailed and ‘offered to interview her for Ms Baldwin to tell her side of the story’. Since Ms Baldwin did not receive any such invitation we are assuming that this assertion is a lie to add to the folder of lies Hansen has promulgated around the situation. What is more, Sarah Baldwin received no response from the paper when she complained about the article directly with them. It was not until the APC made the approach that it responded saying Hansen had offered to interview Ms Baldwin. There was no such offer before the article went to print and none after to bring any factual accuracy to the matter.
Even if an interview had been granted it is likely it would have been with the same accusatory style that Hansen has made an art of. It would only have served Hansen’s preconceived agenda. Hansen in response to complaints that she presented only one side of the story has suggested that her request for an interview with Serge Benhayon exonerates her from the manifest bias that she presented in her stories. A simple observation is that this would only be the case if an interview were a genuine, bona fides inquiry into exploring and exposing the truth. What Jane Hansen regularly offers is a little less than that.
In response to being questioned about her lack of integrity and obvious bias she and her paper have responded by stating that Serge Benhayon had been quoted as suggesting that his critics were cyber-bullies and had been offered an interview. It has to be noted that this response has no application to the article that featured Matthew Sutherland – there was no balancing material, there was no ‘offer of interview’. Nor was the ‘offer’ of an interview on an entirely different story a genuine one.
We also have to say that Hansen’s lame reference to Lance Martin, Esther Rockett and Matthew Sutherland as ‘critics’ belies the over two year cyber-bullying campaign conducted by the group online with the most disgusting, vile and abusive commentary and language. Hansen was well aware of this invective, as she had been presented with the facts by Serge Benhayon. She even wrote to a woman she knew stating that ‘I have read the blogs and both sides.’ Yet the fact of this vile and abusive conduct was mysteriously missing from her reporting. Hansen has a habit of choosing sides in a debate, and this was no different. Investigative journalism took another blow against its credibility with yet another story from Hansen where she had already chosen what side she was on, never mind what the facts showed.
If we examine what kind of interview was offered to Serge Benhayon we will see what an empty offer that is. Here is this stunning ‘offer’:
I am currently compiling a story on Universal Medicine and the College of UM and have some questions I would like to put to you.
First of all, can you tell me what the charity’s aim is with regards to the College?
Is the aim to build a school to teach you (sic) esoteric teachings?
I see your courses cost anywhere from $100 to $1800 so these will be taught at the College?
Will you be making money out of that?
What is esoteric breast massage and why is it needed?
You have claimed it can help treat women’s health problems such as endometriosis, what science do you base that on?
You have conducted ovarian readings on women…can you explain what an ovarian reading is?
I understand there are now esoteric uterine massages, can you explain how that works?
UM has been described as a cult, what is your response to that?
Its been said you earn up to $5 million a year through these teachings..is this true?
Can you clarify the Leonado Da Vinci reincarnation you purport to be? How do you know?
It is alleged UM preys on vulnerable women with female health problems..is there any truth to that?
I am running this story on Sunday, so my deadline is Friday mid morning on the 20th of June
What is apparent here is that Jane Hansen had an agenda – her leading questions were far from the pretence of an open ‘interview’ where the matters of concern would be discussed with fairness and balance, let alone reported as such. Serge Benhayon noted:
If you are going to pillory me, as have the other scurrilous journalists before you, lies they chose to tell the public, why do you need me to comment? Token, legal, appear to be fair, show some decency and not give away too much the not-so-hidden agenda?’
It was indeed a ‘legal requirement as much as it is a professional requirement’, was Jane Hansen’s response. Indeed, in response to the complaint made by Serge Benhayon to the APC, the repeated defence was: “we offered you an interview and the offer of an interview is still open”.
All that is considered important is that an interview was offered, not that the very nature of the interview was never going to be ‘fair’ or ‘balanced’ which is the tenet of the ethics of journalism. The ‘interview’ (more aptly referred to as ‘interrogation’) would have no different focus or purpose now. The preconceived ideas, charged questions where the answers were already written before they were asked (or could be manipulated with some careful editing), were all de rigueur for Jane Hansen. Indeed, the offer of an interview was simply a ruse to get something to suit a false story that was already written – it would serve to get something on record so it could be quoted out of context or misrepresented.
Ms Hansen’s questions were contaminated with pre-suppositions so that there was no opportunity for true investigation. If an interrogator seeks a specific response then this is achieved by loading questions with information that require the assumption of particular facts being correct. The questions quoted above were all of this ilk. Such questions are difficult to refute, since they draw attention to what is being denied. Each and every question posed by Ms Hansen was loaded with pre-suppositions and could not in any way be seen as supporting a requirement for fair and balanced reporting. Fair and balanced reporting calls upon a capacity to inquire without a pre-conceived agenda, Jane Hansen clearly had no intention of true inquiry and it is obvious an interview was simply intended to tick a box.
This approach appears to be a common one for Jane Hansen – in the case of the anti-vaccine groups that she had taken on in a campaign to advocate for vaccination – she approached one of the group in the same vein as she had Serge Benhayon – there is the mention of a ‘deadline’ of the weekend report, and then a series of loaded questions to satisfy a ‘right of reply’, but no more :
‘We are running a story this weekend about the experiences of the (REDACTED) X family and other bereaved parents and their treatment at the hands of members of the AVN, or regular bloggers on your site. I am putting these questions to you for your right of reply.’
The questions that followed were it appears, typical of Hansen’s style of propaganda styled as journalism. The recipient of the ‘interrogation’ chose not to answer the loaded and biased questions presented by Hansen, preferring to provide responses in public on a website. The responses expose Hansen’s questions:
Q – Did you ring (REDACTED), the father of the boy who died of chicken pox, and tell him your views on vaccination?
Q – Was this necessary?
Since I’ve never heard of him, I can honestly say that I never called him. And if anyone wants my views on vaccination, they are available in almost 20 years of magazines, newsletters and website posts. Oh, and for your second question, was this necessary, great use of the loaded question fallacy, Jane. You are obviously a pro at this slander thing.
Q – He feels you, or someone from the AVN told him that he was doing society a disservice by discussing vaccination, is this true?
Sometimes when I’m sleeping, I feel as though the media and the government have somehow found a conscience. But then I wake up and I realise how silly that feeling is. How can someone possibly claim to feel that they were contacted by another person. Either they were or they weren’t. If they were, they should be able to say who the person was and what they said. If they can’t provide this evidence, then why are you even asking me these questions? Is it a slow news week, Jane?
Q – Did you threaten to take out an AVO against Y because she attended you talks on vaccination?
Considering the fact that I have no idea who Y is nor do I remember anyone by that name attending any of my seminars … I can answer by stating that I have not taken out an AVO against her nor have I threatened to do so since I don’t know her nor, to the best of my knowledge, have I ever had contact with her. I’m curious though. Why are you asking this question? Have you taken out an AVO against Y? How’d that go for you, Jane?
Is what Jane Hansen engages in meeting the requirements of the code of ethics provided by the APC? Is the offer of an interrogation the foundation for a ‘fair’ or ‘balanced’ report?
Jane Hansen appears to fall for her own spin suggesting that she had asked Serge Benhayon ‘to put [his] case forward’ and that she had ‘given… ample opportunity’ for this. What sort of opportunity is afforded by the offer described above? In a simple assessment, the answer is NONE.
When Hansen was challenged with her meagre and unethical approach by Serge Benhayon, she took offense at what she referred to as ‘insults to my journalistic integrity.’ Obviously Hansen believes she has some.
Hansen used the lies she was presented with by Lance Martin, Esther Rockett and Matthew Sutherland as the foundation of her sensationalist and false story with no enquiry as to the truth. We remind Hansen that:
‘Concocted lies do not convert to truths.’ Serge Benhayon
Your concocted lies do not convert to truths, even if you manage to get an interview that you can manipulate to make them appear like they are true. Hansen was unmoved by suggestions that she consider a different approach. After the articles were published someone who knew Hansen pointed to the Universal Medicine Facts site – they thought that Hansen could not have been aware of the material we have presented. Hansen’s response was that she had read the blogs. So a pattern emerged – she read the cogent evidence that exposed her sources and she chose to ignore it.
It appears no one is immune from Jane Hansen’s media spotlight if she can make use of it. A young mother, Liane, had been approached by Jane Hansen in a public place to be part of an article on babies for the Sunday Telegraph. Liane and her daughter subsequently appeared in a ‘100 babies in 100 days’ feature by Jane Hansen in 2013.
In 2014, Liane was approached for a follow up on the original story and interviewed by another journalist (Claire Harvey) about the first year of her daughter’s life. Soon after, Jane Hansen called wanting more details about what had been said about vaccination. Liane discussed her view that immunisation was something that should be a free choice, however what appeared in the paper the very next day with the headline “Byron backlash as parents immunise…” was twisted to serve the angle of the story and to support Jane Hansen’s pro-immunisation stance. Not only was a photo of Liane’s family used without consent for this story, her words were twisted to suggest that she was a vanguard of parents who had been ‘converted’ from not immunising their children to immunisation, even her daughter’s immunisation status was fabricated to serve Hansen’s agenda (to suggest Liane had changed from anti-immunisation to immunising their family).
Although I am sympathetic to Jane Hansen’s story line – myself and Universal Medicine support Hansen’s message of the importance of immunisation – but however important the message, it does not remove the requirement for ethical journalism. Liane made clear the shortcomings of Jane Hansen’s approach in a letter to the editor, pointing out the photo was used without consent and further noting amongst other things that:
‘I appeared in your story regarding immunisation under the heading “Byron backlash as parents immunise..” I feel entirely misrepresented in what I had expressed to reporter Jane Hansen regarding my views on immunisation.
… under the picture of myself, my partner and my then newborn (a year ago) daughter, was the caption that she was now “fully immunised”. NOT TRUE …. My daughter remains COMPLETELY UN-IMMUNISED …. Saying that she is now fully immunised, apart from being a complete lie, is misleading as to my current stance on immunisation. I feel like I have been used as a pawn here to advocate immunisation…
… the referral to a ‘backlash’ in the Byron community, which, sadly, I have been used as a front person for. This is NOT the case … Again, poor reporting/compiling and complete misrepresentation. One person (myself) reconsidering her immunisation choices is hardly a ‘backlash’. It is a gross injustice to refer to it as such.’
Liane never heard back from the editor, she comments, ‘It would appear that the responsibility to portray the truth in media that I had addressed him on fell on deaf ears and does not meet with their agenda.’
Jane Hansen it seems will use any means possible to make a story. What she believes is ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ is a far cry from what any decent person would assess it to be.
I give the final word to another who observed that, representatives of the media of whom Jane Hansen is a prime example, have ‘a moral compass which is not only broken – it was been sent overseas for repairs where it was lost years ago. At the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. At the base of the Mariana Trench. Where no light will ever find it.’ .
(3) The Australian/ The Sunday Mail (Qld), 9/12/2012
(4) Jane Wileyman, Letter to Jane Hansen, Journalist at News Ltd, “Journalists using ‘Faith’ and not ‘Evidence-based Science’. http://www.vaccinationdecisions.net/resources/Letter%20to%20Jane%20Hansen%20Journalists%20using%20’faith%20and%20not%20’evidence-based%20science’.pdf
(5) Sonya Pemberton, Jabbed: Love, Fear and Vaccines, SBS, 2013, see http://www.echo.net.au/2013/05/vaccination-school-ban-sparks-backlash/