Bond and Bliss carousel


Leave the poor man alone.

That’s what I thought when I saw the pack of vultures descend on Alan Bond less than 24 hours after finding his beloved wife dead in the swimming pool.

Diana Bliss was a tortured soul who’d twice tried to kill herself.

“We spoke to her last week and she seemed brighter, and we were all hoping for a miracle. Instead we got this,” one of her friends told me yesterday.

Losing a loved one is deeply traumatic. In the case of suicide, it can be almost unbearable.

So imagine what it was like for Alan Bond (pictured left with Diana on their wedding day in 1995), leaving the house for the first time since the tragedy, to go to church on Sunday morning.

This is how it was reported on the PerthNow website:

“He struggled to find the words to explain.

“In the end, Alan Bond – the man who, during one of the country’s most “colourful” careers has never been short of a quotable quote – answered simply: ‘I lost my beautiful wife.’

“That was all he had.

“The media had gathered outside the house Alan Bond shared with his wife Diana Bliss in the Perth suburb of Cottesloe yesterday, hoping for some insight into her sudden death.

“The former tycoon sought solace in his local church before joining his family to mourn her death.

“Looking distraught, and frailer than he should for his 73 years, he appeared to be overwhelmed by the crowd awaiting his return.

“Asked how he was feeling, Mr Bond paused and appeared to struggle for the words, before saying softly: ‘It’s so new. I lost my beautiful wife.’ “

How dare a journalist accuse a grieving man of not being his usual quotable self.

Is it any wonder he was “overwhelmed” and looked “frailer than he should”.

The first question asked was this: “Mr Bond, how are you feeling?”

Talk about Special Subject the Bleeding Obvious.

Later that day, Mr Bond’s daughter Jody Fewster said the family would “appreciate a little bit of privacy at this time”.

When I started in journalism 25 years ago, a news director gave some salient advice.

“If you’re doing a death knock, make sure you do it within 24 hours. That’s when they’re at their most vulnerable,” he said.

As newsreader Jessica Rowe wrote on The Hoopla last October, “Often the shell-shocked family would be told that, by talking, it might prevent the tragedy happening to another family”.

Sometimes, we’d couch it in terms of a ‘tribute’ to the deceased.

This is morally reprehensible.

People in the first stage of grief are desperate to talk to someone – anyone.

The media gathers at Alan Bond’s Perth home.

But the Journalists’ Code of Ethics is clear: “Respect private grief and personal privacy. Journalists have the right to resist the compulsion to intrude.”

Note the word “right” in the second sentence.

That means a journo can turn around to the Chief-of-Staff and say, “No, I won’t do that”.

In practice, this rarely happens.

The young ones are keen to make a name; the seasoned professionals are hardened to the task.

There are, however, some cases where it serves a valuable purpose.

Last week, the family of three people killed in a horrific truck accident on the Hume Highway held a press conference, calling for witnesses to assist police with their investigation.

But what happened in Perth was nothing more than grief porn – a relative of disaster porn.

And its tentacles are spreading through our increasingly fragmented media.

Competition between TV, newspapers, radio and websites is so fierce, there are no longer any boundaries.

Witness the feeding frenzy after the Quakers Hill nursing home fire.

As Wendy Harmer wrote, there were “endless news photographs and footage of people, clearly identified, in a moment of extreme vulnerability”.

Fortunately, the audience is fighting back.

“Pretty disgusted at the media chasing Alan Bond for a statement. Poor bloke just lost his wife, give him space ya vultures,” wrote Triple M announcer Dave Higgins on Twitter.

“Regardless of your thoughts on the man, sticking microphones in Alan Bond’s face the morning after his wife’s sudden death was unnecessary,” tweeted Anthony Leach.

We will all feel the wrench of grief.

The least we deserve is the dignity of privacy.

*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.

Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.

Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs.  

She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago.

But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey


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  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Brilliant Trace. I look forward to more

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Well done, it’s good to know there are decent journalists like yourself out there, that can demonstrate compassion & empathy in reporting the facts of a story.

    I did think it was inappropriate, the way journalists sought a comment from Mr Bond after his tragic loss!

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    Wendy Harmer

    There’s a very interesting book just been published about journalist ethics during the Black Saturday bushfires. Part of the summary says that journalists are working in an “ethical vaccum” that is “a systematic failure”. It’s called “Black Saturday: In the Media Spotlight”. I heard one of the authors, Michael Gawenda from the Centre of Advanced Journalism talking about it on radio and he was especially critical of what happened in that first 48 hours when survivors were in deep shock and extremely vulnerable. It was described as an ethical “free for all”. Johnathan Holmes from the Drum said: “I hope that every journalist and every editor in Australia reads Gawenda and Muller’s report. Because it’s all too likely that the lessons it teaches will need to be applied again, all too soon.”

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    An ethical free-for-all. Well put. We were victims of the Black Saturday bushfires. So-called journalists shoved microphones in our faces, our kids were crying. Of course we spoke, but we were in shock! My wife said she felt violated. There should be action taken by a body like the Press Council to stop this kind of thing happening. It’s getting worse.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    It’s really just about common decency, isn’t it? Leave the man alone to grieve in his own way. This story is absolutely NOT “in the public interest” – a phrase that the hacks trot out when trying to justify their intrusiveness.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Unfortunately, media scrambles are not uncommon.

    When a friend of my household was killed, we were left wondering about the integrity of certain journalists when certain media outlets incorrectly reported certain circumstances surrounding his death.

    This was despite the facts readily available via a police media website.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    I find it heartening to see the public, and some journos speaking up about this sort of behaviour by some sections of the media. I’m studying for a BA in Communications at the moment and trying to decide on a Major. Frankly, the idea of majoring in journalism has lost its appeal. If that is how journos are expected to conduct themselves in order to get and keep a job, I don’t want any part of it. I used to think being a journo was a noble profession but this type of stuff has really soured it for me. Thanks Tracey for your piece.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    The family of the young boy who died in the caravan fire near Taree the other day have had to correct some media reports today. I read stuff like this and I wonder how journos who get stuff like this wrong, and add to the unimaginable grief this family is already experiencing, can sleep at night.

    “Reports that the candle that sparked the fire was lit as early as 7pm and that the boy was only checked after two hours were incorrect, said Greg Stace.

    “[Isaac] was put to bed at more like 8.30pm and the fire would have been at about 9pm. It was just half an hour.”

    The family was not watching TV at the time but were “spending time watching the other children,” he said.

    Mr Stace said he wanted to clear up what he said were factual errors being reported in the media.

    “It’s hard enough for everyone right now without the wrong information going around,” he said.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    As an ex-journo I know too well the impact “death knocks” have had on some reporters, particularly those who were sent to cover Pt Arthur and the Bali bombings. There is only so much even the most hardened reporter can deal with. Not to mention the impact it has on the people who are suffering through the worst moments of their life – losing loved ones.

    Great post, looking forward to reading more x

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Interesting take on the situation Tracey.

    We the viewers, readers, audiences, have a responsibility here to take a stand against this type of ‘reporting’.

    And it is a whole lot easier than you’d expect to take a stand: stop buying the trashy magazines filled with mostly unfounded gossip. Stop tuning into radio stations that allow their announcers to spew forth nonsense, threats and otherwise inappropriate subject matter. Stop visiting the news sites that encourage this ‘standard’ of journalism. Stop tuning into the news stations that send their reports to stalk the grieving in a bid to capture more viewers.

    The news and media industry need to stop viewing people’s everyday problems, issues, and grief as a ‘story’ and start adapting a more holistic approach.

    Yes, if something is newsworthy then cover it. But do it respectfully. Often, as is the case with Alan Bond, respect can be as simple as allowing the person/s involved time to gather their thoughts and let them decide if and when they have a microphone and camera shoved in their face.

    With all due respect to Alan Bond and his late wife I don’t believe it was imperative that this be covered in the news. Yes, he is a public figure and therefore the subject matter is of interest. But newsworthy enough to have media camped out the front of his home? No. Give the man and his family some respect and common courtesy.

    • Reply January 31, 2012


      I have not purchased a ‘trashy’ magazine (New Idea, Cosmo, etc) since Princess Diana’s death. And I am not the only one.

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    leah pallaris...

    Sympathy to all the family.
    Respect from the press.
    let us remember Diana, as one loyal Lady….

  • […] On a national website. […]

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Love the irony in this article – “leave him alone” she cries as she joins in the feeding frenzy around the story. But because the angle is more moralistic, it’s ok…. Luckily the dollars from the ad impressions are still the same.

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    martin kelly

    Bond is public property and the story of his partner’s death is news.

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    Sandi Nielsen

    I find it quite barbaric. I turn my TV off when this sort of thing comes on. Totally unnecessary. I tip my hat to her brother who spoke on the 720 morning program about his wonderful sister. I could not have done it.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Well done on a great article, Tracey. Too often than not media vultures surround the vulnerable and turn it into “news”. However, the general public is at fault just the same, if not more. No demand for such intrusive “news” will mean no intrusive “journalism’, if I can call it that.
    Someone stated that Alan Bond was public property. How, may I ask? the only public property are the ones being paid for by the public purse, ala, the public servants. That too, when it only comes to their work-related issues. Just because we have a thirst for knowing the very private and intimate details about others does not mean we have the right to. Our thirst for “dirt” on others is, sadly, insatiable, and will continue to feed such vultures. Sad, but true.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    I agree with Mike’s comment. In repeating every single word that was solicited from the grieving Bond in her own article, Tracey Spicer has committed just as serious an invasion of privacy as her media collegues. “How dare they” indeed!

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    “When I started in journalism 25 years ago, a news director gave some salient advice. “If you’re doing a death knock, make sure you do it within 24 hours. That’s when they’re at their most vulnerable,” he said. As newsreader Jessica Rowe wrote on The Hoopla last October, “Often the shell-shocked family would be told that, by talking, it might prevent the tragedy happening to another family”. Sometimes, we’d couch it in terms of a ‘tribute’ to the deceased. This is morally reprehensible. People in the first stage of grief are desperate to talk to someone – anyone.” … Hmm, how about the media simply leaves this person alone. The comment where it suggests that “people in the first stage of grief are desperate to talk to someone – anyone” is an absolute cop out. In other words, it’s an editor’s push to get the story first. Do people honestly believe that a person who has just lost someone wants to talk about it in the media within 24 hours? It’s only for one’s ego and glory – not giving any consideration to the person’s feelings.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Let’s all start by not reading, watching or listening to such reports. I have worked as a news journalist and we all dreaded being asked by a gruff boss to go do one. The first death knock I had to do was at age 20 and the last at age 25. They only seem to send the young ones – ill equipped to do such work and too afraid to refuse whatever the rules might say. Sadly the morbid curiosity of people also feeds into all this. I couldn’t believe the story of the missing presumed murdered toddler in the US splashed on the home page of the SMH website today. No Australian connection but I suspect the placement of the story was just a horrifying way to get clicks. Nasty stuff.

    • Reply January 31, 2012

      Wendy Harmer

      I noticed that story today, Kate. And a lot like that one on the Fairfax sites. Lots of gruesome stuff from around the world, clearly there for no good reason but to attract ghouls.

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    No sympathy from me

    Ordinarily I’d be totally in agreement but in Bond’s case I’m sorry – I have no compassion for this man who destroyed companies & fleeced over a billion dollars from shareholders & super funds in the process. She may not have been party to it but benefited from the proceeds.

    • Reply January 31, 2012


      You have to be joking!!

      • Reply February 2, 2012

        No sympathy from me

        No, not joking. In my opinion he’s just a liar and a thief, with absolutely no morals or ethics. Who paid for their lifestyle? He didn’t just plunder faceless companies, but ultimately, super funds, retirees & real people. I generally disapprove of grief porn & agree that people should generally have their privacy respected. But I just can’t feel sorry for unethical parasites like these.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    this, in defence of the crook of a man who, indeed, benefited handsomely while others lost their livelihoods. and this, from a former channel 10 newsreader. if you were still reading the news you’d be introducing the segment as the headline story, or at least before the first ad break. tell me, at least, that you weren’t paid for this piece. then perhaps i’d take it seriously.

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    Sandi Logan NatComms Mngr DIAC

    Excellent post. Interestingly, for often similar reasons, we seek privacy for our clients too yet the media believes it has a right to intrude when and how it feels and/or wants. I’m waiting for some bright spark to tell us “Mr Bond was on public property at the time, so he was fair game.” That’s about the strength of modern media’s argument these days; it’s all about the “game” and nothing about morals, ethics or basic decency.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    I would query whether Alan Bond is even a public figure these days. the Tooheys beer question, how does it feel? is one of the worst forms of modern journalism. I have been a journo for more than 50 years and never did a death knock. When I was young, I lied about the people being home, later I just refused. I am sickened at sight of bunches of journos crowding victims, waving mikes and shouting inanities. I have yet to see anyone say anything when confronted by this crap. Of course in many cases the media crews go out of their way to try to provoke a violent response. Media Watch has chronicled some of the more egregious examples. Noone deserves that sort of treatment.

    • Reply January 31, 2012

      Megan Kinninment

      Alan, good to hear another journo talk about telling their boss the grieving family isn’t home or not answering calls!
      The death knock sickened me when I first started. Still does.

      Hear, hear, Tracey.

      I think part of the problem is as you’ve described: the competiive nature of the media landscape, and with it the pack mentality that comes out in the national press. There’s an anonymity provided in that pack that brings out the worst in some.

      It is a different situation altogether when you work for a regional paper. We can’t afford to work so cold-heartedly, even if we were so inclined, because we LIVE among the very communities we report on. We see the grieving widow/mother/father/husband etc when we do our grocery shopping… or our kids might go to school together.

      We don’t have that anonymity to hide behind. It’s quite confronting in that sense, but it keeps you honest and real and ethical. It doesn’t mean you shy away from the hard stories, but you never forget you are reporting on real people.

      Like him or loathe him, public figure or not, Alan Bond is still a human being who deserves the privacy to grieve.

      In my opinion, treating the grieving ethically is always more important than the front page.

      ~ Megan

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Your response is the response of every person I know to these kinds of stories. More time is spent lamenting the disgusting and shameless ghoulishness of the media than the event itself.

    For so long the media have been convinced this is what we want, sometimes to the point of saying so. Only it isn’t and nothing we say makes a difference. It takes journos like yourself writing articles like this. Thank you for doing it.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Thankyou for standing up for those under such horrendous duress and faced with disrespectful media. The revolution is beginning from the consumers.

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    Dear Tracey – great article. As someone who has experienced the loss of a sister through suicide I understand and feel for Alan Bond. While I don’t fully understand the circumstances I’m assuming from the reports that they all knew about her demons. Therefore like my sisters death it was a shock but not a surprise. I understood his reaction…total shock….he probably knew the day was coming as I’m sure he probably spent months , years trying to steer her away. I’m not condoning the media behaviour – I would hate to be famous – but he was famous and dare I say infamous and I guess the actions and questions from journos don’t surprise me. I guess it’s the price you pay.

    • Reply January 31, 2012


      I am so sorry to hear about your sister’s death. How devastating. My Dad tried to commit suicide several times. I guess that’s one of the reasons why the treatment of Alan Bond riled me so much. Having microphones shoved down your throat is the last thing a family member needs. However, I do take your point about Bond being a public figures. Journalists view people like him being public property.

      • Reply January 31, 2012


        Yes I know and that is the sad thing…they can’t grieve in private. Gil died 5 years ago on Jan 27…it was her second attempt and in the end she succeeded. It was all very complicated and all our family tried and tried but in the end it is what she wanted. She left notes for everyone – it was so well planned. I wish I could send a personal message to Alan Bond just to lend some support and instead of asking how he feels I would say…I know how you feel and know that your Angel has joined all those other Angels in heaven. I’m very open about it. It’s important we all talk about mental illness as it comes in so many forms. I’m sorry about your dad as well….I send hugs x

  • Reply January 31, 2012


    I was also taken aback by initial reports which made it sound like a crime had been committed. Very calous and unforgiving. I did not know it was a suicide until reading this Tracy which only makes it even more heartless. As has been mentioned, no matter what your opinion is of Alan Bond, yes indeed, leave the poor man alone.

  • Reply February 1, 2012

    Lisa Forrest

    I think we’ve got to take our normal tablets with this one.

    From the very first day a newspaper was ever printed a story like this – a wealthy beautiful socialite found floating dead in the backyard pool of the couple’s mansion (how I first heard it) – would have been a story no matter who the woman was.

    In addition to that is the fact that not only was her husband famous but Diana Bliss was a PR woman herself who understood very well how media works. The photos that accompanied Tracey’s story are a testament to that; and Alan Bond, in the way he handled the media questions I think understood that too..

    Its very sad, but a very different situation to the ‘death knocks’ the poor man who lit a candle for his son in the caravan would have had to endure.

    I think while we’re talking about privacy though we have to take into consideration that while the media no doubt trespasses on it, the lines are very blurry. Many celebrities reveal private things about themselves (be it mental health or weight) that even twenty years ago no one would think of speaking about – often for money or publicity. And if participation in reality shows is any indication (not to mention the revelations on Facebook and other social media) the general public are rather desperate to go on TV and reveal deeply private things about themselves as well.
    While a few of us find it tacky or distasteful, the great majority of people don’t seem to be bothered about it. Live by the sword, die by the sword, as they say.

  • Reply February 1, 2012



  • Reply February 3, 2012

    Valerie Parv

    There’s another side to grief porn, the side of those mourning their loss. The day of my beloved husband’s funeral, I gave a brief radio interview by phone after the wake and I recall vividly that I did it because I desperately wanted the world to know what an amazing man we’d lost. Death seldom makes sense to those left behind. In the media, everyone can hear you scream, and sometimes that is what you need.

  • Reply February 4, 2012


    “no sympathy from me” congrats on one of the best letters I have read in days about the whole funeral saga,whilst I have much sympathy for Diana,I could not give a rats bottom about her husband, My father was one of his Aussie “victims” years ago, and my husband was his prison guard in the nineties,he always had a large amount of money to “spend” that others were not allowed in prison,my fathers super was stolen by Bond and he won’t get a lavish funeral as a consequence,does not seem fair…

  • Reply February 10, 2012


    Thanks, Traci, for that story. I struggle, as a working journo, to go with the news direction, but in the end, there is always a human being at the centre of the story. He did indeed just “lose his beautiful wife” and for that alone, he is absolutely entitled to privacy to grieve. Death knocks are ethically confronting. And so go on and on the merry go round.

  • […] Where’s the Decency? […]

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