The Australian Achieves New Low in Sean Flynn Coverage

March 30, 2010

We’ve already reported on what appears to be biased coverage by the Associated Press of the recent Sean Flynn discovery (see preceding post), but the matter is now getting out of hand. In an article printed in The Australian, writer Mark Dodd has referred to David Macmillan and Keith Rotheram, the two men who may have discovered the remains of Sean Flynn to the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday, as “bounty hunters.”

The first question one should ask is, “Does Mark Dodd, and for that matter any editor at The Australian, know what a bounty hunter is?”

Presumably, if Macmillan and Rotheram were bounty hunters, they would have collected some sort of payment upon turning over the remains to the American embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Friday. This was not the case.

Dodd’s complete ignorance of the facts is illustrated when he writes, “The Australian-born Errol Flynn died in 1959, but [Lili] Damita has funded several searches for their son. It’s not known if she bankrolled the latest search.” First off, Lili Damita died in 1994. Second, had he read the Sunday Mail article that broke the news of Macmillan and Rotheram’s discovery written by AsiaLIFE contributing editor Thomas Maresca and Simon Parry of Red Door News Agency, he would have known that Flynn’s sister Rory, who was quoted in the article, partially funded the excavation.

Further, it should be questioned on what sources Dodd is relying for his own facts. At one point he writes: “David MacMillan, 29, and his bar owner friend, Keith Rotheram 60, found the remains which they claim are Flynn’s earlier this month.” According to Macmillan, who AsiaLIFE is in touch with, neither he nor Rotheram have made any such claim to any news agency or the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh.

Further he quotes Tim Page, the photographer and friend of Sean Flynn as saying, “I have had hundreds of people contact me over the years about Sean and I’m always interested in what they have to say…” This quote is exceedingly misleading, as Page and Macmillan are personal acquaintances. It was Macmillan who set up Tim Page’s interview with Thomas Maresca for the story The Last Search for Sean Flynn in the March 2009 issue of AsiaLIFE.

Page also claims that Macmillan and Rotheram tried to sell their story. We cannot speak for any subsequent dealings, but Macmillan personally contacted Thomas Maresca and AsiaLIFE with the story and asked for no compensation, nor has he received any. Maresca then traveled to Phnom Penh, where he spoke to Macmillan and Rotheram for the story that broke the news in the Sunday Mail and South China Morning Post. They are, however, well within their rights to grant an exclusive feature to a periodical.

Dodd says that he could not reach Macmillan and Rotheram for comment. Again, it would appear that Page is the only source that reporters are turning to, and thus, his is the only narrative being propagated to potentially hundreds of thousands of readers. Dodd’s amateurish reportage is part of the reason that Macmillan and Rotheram have been advised to wait until the DNA results are in to speak to the press.

However, the result of hair-trigger reportage like Dodd’s is quickly amounting to a smear campaign.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

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5 Responses to “The Australian Achieves New Low in Sean Flynn Coverage”

  1. Marianne Meyers Says:

    I wrote an email to the editors of the Australian about all their mistakes. They also stated that Sean Flynn disappeared in April of 1972 when we all know he disappeared in April of 1970. I pointed out that mistake along with them commenting that Sean’s mother had possibly funded this last search, when she died in 1994. I told them that they needed to double check their facts. I have never seen such irresponsible reporting or editing.

  2. doc b Says:

    This whole thing is a very tawdry little state of affairs. I’m on Mark Dodd’s side.

  3. asialife Says:

    It should be noted that AsiaLIFE is on no one’s side. We’ve been following the events as they develop, as our contributing editor Thomas Maresca broke the story. What we’re concerned with is the level of unprofessionalism that is being exhibited by media professionals. As Marianne and I noted, Dodd’s article is rife with errors and loaded language.

    What I find interesting is that none of the reporters have thus far treated David Macmillan and Keith Rotheram as individuals. Macmillan has been working alongside people like Tim Page to solve the mystery of Sean Flynn’s disappearance for more than a year. Rotheram, on the other hand, is a friend of Macmillan’s who assisted in securing the means to carry out the excavation.

    As a young journalist and editor, this incident has been very illuminating for me. That newspapers of record are picking up these stories is frankly shocking.

  4. rod quinton Says:

    nice one Asia Life. Keep striving for Journalistic integrity.

  5. Marianne Meyers Says:

    Tim King has been publishing pieces on this development with Sean’s possible remains on Salem News. His is the latest piece written when you google Sean’s name. There is a lot of interesting authentic information in these articles.


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