Nine Newspapers cock up op ed by Wing Commander (Ret’d): error or deception?

Update 2 December 2019: War Memorial website has been amended by addition of this para of biodata:

Retired wing commander Sharon Bown is a nurse who served in Afghanistan and East Timor and is a member of the Australian War Memorial Council. This article was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 29 November 2019.

Update 29 November 2019 pm: Nine Newspapers have fixed the incorrect spelling but have added nothing to the author bio. So, the error has been fixed but the deception remains. The War Memorial has put the op ed on its website, with no mention of where it appears – and no mention that Ms Bown is a member of the Memorial Council. Deception doubled-down.

Today’s online Age and Sydney Morning Herald carry an op ed by Sharon Bown, former RAAF nurse, supporting the proposed $500m expansion of the Australian War Memorial. The piece is written from the viewpoint of a recent veteran,  supports the therapeutic value of exhibits at the Memorial, bags the suggestion that the Memorial’s Mitchell campus could satisfactorily house retired military kit, and objects to the idea that service in recent small-scale conflicts is less deserving of recognition than service in larger wars. The article praises the management and staff of the Memorial.

The article concludes with a clever misrepresentation of opposition to the expansion project:

In our free and democratic society, individuals have the right to question the cost involved in supporting our service men and women, but may we never forget that the Australian War Memorial has already been paid for – with the blood of Australia’s finest.

To correct this furphy, those who question this expenditure do not question the cost of supporting service people; instead, they question whether the expansion expenditure will provide that support.

Now for the crinkly bits. The online versions of this story – and the hard copy in the SMH – misspell the author’s name as ‘Brown’ rather than ‘Bown’. That is down to the sub-editor and we pointed out the error to The Age.

More important is the way the author is described: ‘Retired wing commander Sharon Brown [sic] is a nurse who served in Afghanistan and East Timor’. There is no mention that Wing Commander Bown (Ret’d) is a member of the Council of the Memorial (reappointed this year), who spoke recently at the launch of the display of the proposed extensions.

That may be down to a sub-editor, but it looks more like deception. Of course, Wing Commander Bown is entitled to speak about her experience and how she believes the Memorial has helped her and people like her. But readers need to know about her affiliations as well as her personal story.

We drew the attention of The Age to the problem with the online version of the article but have heard nothing. We will mention it to the Memorial, also.

David Stephens*

29 November 2019 updated

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3 comments on “Nine Newspapers cock up op ed by Wing Commander (Ret’d): error or deception?
  1. stewart says:

    Wing Commander Bown is clearly committed to honouring the service and sacrifice of our veterans and that is admirable. However her opinion piece is emotive and unfairly paints anyone opposing this development as being somehow unsupportive of veterans of recent conflicts.
    Objecting to the AWM’s design proposal does not equate to obstruction of the role of the AWM or belittling the service and sacrifice of contemporary veterans.
    Objectors to the proposal are not saying that the AWM shouldn’t properly address recent conflicts; or that nothing additional or new should be done at the Memorial for commemoration of recent conflicts; or that recent conflicts should be covered off-site at Treloar. That’s just nonsense.
    What people are saying is that an enormous (and costly) development which shows little respect for the heritage site and building is not the way to go. There are alternative development options which achieve the necessary space without the destruction of Anzac Hall and that do not cause irreversible harm to the National Heritage site. They should be properly considered.
    The AWM Council, of which Bown is a member, may well have approved (their own) development plans and yes, the government has provided extraordinary funding to one cultural institution. However that does not mean the design proposal should be treated as a fait accompli by its proponents. That is wrong and shows disregard for the legislated review processes still to occur.
    The intangible quality of the Memorial site is intrinsic to how we commemorate. It must be treated with respect and we must get any development there right.

    Stewart Mitchell (previous Head of Buildings and Services at the Australian War Memorial)

  2. Leighton View says:

    As a counter to Ms. Bown’s editorial, the very well written column by Elizabeth Farrelly in the November 30th SMH entitled “Military Excess and Our Memorial Gem” is offered. And it includes a summary of Canberra’s history as an extra bonus.

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