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The cost of ageism

The cost of ageism

30 year ABC veteran journalist Kerry Lonergan was sacked by phone with two days notice this week. The move prompted an outpouring of support across Australia, but it still happened

It seems that casual ageism is indeed alive and well, even at Australia's national model citizen equality employer, the ABC. Ageism and a disregard for any kind of compassion was in plain sight with Kerry Lonergan's sacking this week. He was dismissed via telephone, read from a prepared script with 2 days notice and the instruction to put together his viewer farewell for this week's end of year programming.

The move highlights many issues of course, but it particularly shines a light on the very real issue of ageism. Many people simply don't think twice about foisting scrapheap commentary and decisions at people past a certain age. (And an excellent example is those of you who are thinking that he should have been grateful to even still be employed at 74.)

Somehow it's ok to openly make age related assumptions and suggest that people are past it and should move on. But substitute those words and attitude for women's rights or racism and you are suddenly very aware of just how not ok it is. Ageism is not ok. It is up there with every other ism we need to stop engaging in. While it is a game we all play to varying degrees, it's a complete waste of time and of the entire ecosystem of knowledge, connections and community, built up over years of every important life.

The ABC says that the Landline program has simply had a change of direction and no longer required Lonergan's services. That is of course their right to decide, notwithstanding the cries of program staff and friends pointing out that the ABC Director of Regional & Local Programming grew up in Sydney, was educated in Sydney, had her career in Sydney (including as editor of SMH) and has never lived anywhere else in Australia. At least she qualifies as being local to somewhere.

Setting aside the qualifications of the program boss and the not insignificant issue of how this kind of treatment affects the mental health of the individual involved, the dismissal is an excellent example of how ageism tosses aside and disrespects not just the individual's legacy, but everyone and everything attached to it. Maybe it is 'time to go', but how should 'time to go' be done and the fruits of all those invested years preserved? 

Lonergan started ABC Landline almost 30 years ago and across the decades has brought the Australian farm into city lounge rooms, changing the way city folk relate to, respect and genuinely understand their country cousins. The program has remained a shining star of ABC's stable ever since with millions of loyal followers.

ABC Landline really created a kind of meeting place for stories of life on the land, told in interesting ways we could all understand, which gave a real human side to Australian farming and made us all want to get behind it. We learned where food comes from, the way farmers live and run businesses - their highs and lows and the realities of living by the vagaries of the weather.

At the same time, the show gave many journalists a start in their careers and it also gave extraordinary opportunity to many country based businesses, as they told their stories to promote their wares. Indeed, many businesses, from goat soap to camel milk, owe their success to the uplift in sales the program gave them. More recently, as the show has focused on environmentally related issues (and Sydney!), many city businesses too, like The Very Good Bra

In the process of building the show, Lonergan has met and grown up with pretty much everyone, from the people in the street who know him from TV to Prime Ministers and even the ex Governor General, Quentin Bryce, who chose Lonergan for her final formal interview when she left the role. Yesterday, the Minister of Agriculture, David Littleproud chose to put out a Press Release to pay tribute to Lonergan.

While pretty much everything about this dismissal is at best careless and at worst, something much worse, the matter of ageism and the way it throws years of experience, relationship and creation away is pretty much like tossing something in landfill instead of recycling. It's a complete waste of a bloody good thing.

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Paul R

Once again, the ABC manages to shoot itself in the foot. Clearly, diversity does not include conservative, white males over 70. Lonergan has made an outstanding contribution to journalism and should be feted not f@&%%%d over. I hope whoever is responsible for this cruel and thoughtless decision sleeps well at night. One day it may happen to you. Thursday, 12 November 2020