AFL legend Tim Watson has labelled veteran reporter Damian Barrett the ‘voice of treason’ after the respected journalist said the AFL was right to stand down its reporter Mitch Cleary.
Cleary, who is employed by the AFL was stood down by the league after sharing already public details of Brooke Cotchin’s (wife of Richmond captain Trent) trip to a Queensland day spa, violating the league’s hub biosecurity protocols.
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The AFL maintains reporters were given editorial direction not to publish the names of players’ partners or family, something Cleary said he was not aware of.
The decision to stand Cleary down drew widespread condemnation, however Barrett’s voice was absent from the criticism.
Watson criticised Barrett for suggesting the AFL was right to sanction its own journalist, but in response Barrett took to his Sounding Board podcast to ask ‘what would (Watson) know’ about journalism.
He also rejected criticism that AFL Media was not independent, arguing ‘there is no independent media organisation’.
Asked about Barrett on SEN on Wednesday morning, Watson said he was reluctant to get involved in a tit for tat with Barrett, but that his Sounding Board podcast had once been a favourite that he can no longer listen to.
“I just have this to say about ‘The Voice of Treason’ – and that’s who he’ll be known as henceforth,” Watson began.
“This is how I see it: He holds biases, he holds petty grudges, he loses his balance – which is a fundamental plank, I think, of journalism.
“I know he thinks I know nothing about it, but I think it is what journalism is all about.”
Tim Watson irked by ‘glass-jaw’ Damian Barrett
Watson continued, suggested Barrett had come out so hard in defence of the league’s call to stand Cleary down because he was ‘beholden to the AFL’.
The former Essendon champion, who has since become a veteran newsreader and broadcaster, said Barrett had to make compromises for his career in the same way every journalist had to.
“If you work at the AFL, fair enough,” Watson said.
“We all we all need a paycheck, but don’t do a podcast lecturing everyone on the principal pursuit of being a journalist if you’re compromised like everybody else.
“And he’s compromised like everybody else. We know that he’s beholden to the AFL.”
Watson’s co-host Garry Lyon said Barrett sounded ‘frustrated’ when he made his comments about Watson, adding that it wasn’t the reporter’s ‘finest moment’.