Why Natalie Barr wasn't to blame for SUNRISE 'dole bludger' gaffe

Natalie Barr has copped unfair criticism this week after reading a script prepared by someone else

PHOTO: News Corp

By now you’ve most likely read the headlines, seen the criticism and even taken a pot shot at the Sunrise newsreader yourself. But before you judge Natalie Barr maybe you should know the full story…

Two simple words have caused a storm around the country with many baying for blood. And just what was the crime of the century that has many people demanding Natalie Barr be sacked from her news reading gig on Seven’s breakfast show Sunrise

“Dole Blugers”

What started as a normal morning for the likeable presenter soon turned into a week of abuse and headlines when at 5.32am she read out the following introduction to a news story;

“New figures have been released showing just how many dole bludgers are trying to take advantage of the welfare system…” - Natalie Barr 5.32am

Most of Australia would have most likely missed the gaffe if the clip hadn’t been uploaded to twitter. Producers at Sunrise made the decision not to upload the clip because they weren’t happy with the script and the use of the term, but word did not get to the team at 7 News and it was uploaded onto their twitter account.

Then the outrage began and I have to say I believe Nat has been served a shit sandwich on this one.  You see, while Barr is the face who delivered those lines, she is not the person who wrote the script or put a graphic on the screen saying “DOLE BLUDGERS SHAMED”. 

The intro for this story was actually written by the team at 7 News.  And if you need proof of this, you simply have to go back 30 minutes earlier and listen to Jodie Speers read the exact same intro;

Jodie Speers reading the same “dole bludgers” intro as prepped by a 7 news Producer

“New figures have been released showing just how many dole bludgers are trying to take advantage of the welfare system…” - Jodie Speers 5.01am

Now please note I am not attacking Jodie and would not like to see her become a new target, I’m simply pointing out that a producer at 7 News wrote this intro which was then copied and pasted into the Sunrise news rundown. 

The first news section in Sunrise is usually a copy of items from the 5.00am Early News.  Less focus is put on this segment because the stories have all been subbed and gone to air.  Subsequent bulletins face more scrutiny.

And you can tell this by the fact at the 6am bulletin the words “dole bludgers” had been removed from Nat’s script;

The script had changed at 6am but the graphics hadn’t

“New figures out today have revealed an alarming number of people on the dole are trying to take advantage of the welfare system…” - Natalie Barr 6am

While the script had been changed the supers on the screen still said “DOLE BLUDGERS SHAMED”, meaning Nat had gone and changed her script after noticing the term but producers hadn’t changed the onscreen graphics.

To make matters worse for Sunrise, the offending intro was tweeted by the 7 News account, not Sunrise.  So, it then started to take a life of its own by people who hadn’t even seen the actual broadcast.

Twitter warriors than began attacking Nat, despite the fact she issued an apology on twitter.  She didn’t blame anyone else, even though she could have, she just said it shouldn’t have happened and took responsibility.

When I posted the Sunrise apology from the day after, many criticised the fact it aired at 5.44am, saying it should have aired later when more people were watching… but the fact is the apology ran at the same time the original story aired.

Prominent journalists helped beat this up and weren’t afraid to attack.  ABC News presenter Junita Phillips was one of those who voiced their concerns:

These days I often find myself asking “Is this really who we’ve become?” Then I read something like the @sunriseon7 tweet and realise: yes. Yes it is.

Phillips reads the 7pm bulletin for the ABC in New South Wales.  Considering the evening bulletins have a bigger producing staff, an entire day to prep and producers who have time to sub every word, it’s a bit rough to call out some bad copy that is read out first thing in the morning. The tweet so upset Barr she tweeted this reply;

We made a mistake today Juanita. We’re sorry for it. I’ve apologised. It shouldn’t have happened. Nat

You might ask ‘doesn’t every presenter have to take responsibility for what they say on air’? and sure that’s a valid argument.

BUT in the firestorm that is breakfast television you have to be able to trust those around you.  To get across other news of the day and segments only just being completed, there isn’t always time for a presenter to read every word in their script before they go to air.

So, I think it’s time to lay off Natalie Barr and find another victim (or better yet just stop attacking people).  I worked with Nat many years ago and I like and respect her.  She is a good person who doesn’t deserve the vicious attacks, even though she stood with dignity and copped it all, even when it wasn’t really her fault.