Gold Coast Bulletin editor Peter Gleeson is defiant over his besieged star motorsport columnist Brett “Crusher” Murray; but there’s another story to watch at The Bully. Gleeson spoke exclusively to Crikey.
Trailblazing Gold Coast Bulletin editor Peter Gleeson says he will “review” the future of motorsport writer Brett “Crusher” Murray after Media Watch accused the car spruiker of favouring paid clients without proper disclosure.
As 525,000 people tuned in across the country to the popular takedown segment on Monday night, host Jonathan Holmes launched a stinging salvo against the Bully and “Crusher”, who he accused of sidelining rivals to plug the paymasters of his petrolhead PR firm BAM Media.
UPDATE 4:00PM. ‘Crusher’ has been dismissed after an intervention from News editorial overlord Campbell Reid.
And pressure is mounting on the Holt Street hero from another angle with some glitter strip dissidents apparently aggrieved at a front page campaign against a Gold Coast mayoral candidate involved in a now-defunct business with Gleeson’s wife. The stories apparently remain the subject of pending legal action.
A defiant Gleeson defended his record since getting the green light from John Hartigan to take the reins from former editor Dean Gould last August. He challenged the national broadcaster’s take on the “Crusher” affair and said the dispute was actually a “hard liquor war” between brawling advertisers Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s. Gleeson acknowledged the difficulties in providing non-commercial coverage.
“Clearly we’ll have to review it … but what you have to understand with motor sport is that it’s incredibly sponsor driven … it’s littered with brand names and it would very difficult for Crusher not to include them,” he told Crikey.
When the latest audit figures are released on Friday, the paper will become the only sales-positive masthead in the entire country, Gleeson says. ”We’re about to record our second positive Monday to Friday audit and the paper has reversed double digit circulation declines. We regularly break national stories including three last week. The newsroom is firing,” he said.
Crikey first drew attention to Crusher’s conflicts back in March 2010, noting the curious situation each October when the paper appears to become an ad for the glitzy GC600 V8 Supercar event. The continuation of the column could represent a rare misstep for the News veteran who is feted internally for his revitalisation of the Townsville Bulletin as editor and his impressive eviscerations of conman Peter Foster in his previous guise as a Bully journo a decade ago.
On Media Watch, a bemused Holmes suggested it was time to whip out a rare Campbell Reid Trophy — a stuffed barramundi named in honour of the News Limited editorial director — calling the Murray situation a “stinker”.
Elsewhere, a seriesofhatchetjobs shaming so-called “love rat” mayoral candidate David Power in the lead-up to the 2012 Gold Coast City Council elections continues to attract scrutiny. The stories, penned mostly by Ken Vernon, included memorable headlines like “David Power juggled three women” (sample par: “A long-running Bulletin investigation has confirmed what many political figures knew for a long time — that the tall, good-looking and seemingly conservative and respectable former deputy mayor is a love rat.”)
Power withdrew from the mayoral race after a “fourth woman” emerged in the Bulletin brandishing steamy text messages. But Crikey understands that another contributing factor to the withdrawal was his son’s ill health, who was distraught at the front page treatment and later admitted to hospital with a digestive condition.
Gleeson and Power haven’t spoken since the shit hit the fan 10 months ago.
Interestingly, ASIC records show Gleeson’s planning and environment lawyer wife Venesa Schofield was a founding director of Power’s environmental consulting firm Balancing Strategies, alongside Power. For a time, Schofield was also listed as a director of another Power entity, Power Strategic. When Gleeson moved from the Gold Coast to Townsville to edit the Townsville Bulletin, Schofield attempted to set up in the Far North but soon realised the business was a no-goer.
Gleeson defended the lack of disclosure, noting it would be difficult to do his job if he had to declare every third party connection: “Should I have declared it? My argument is that my wife’s entitled to do whatever she likes as far as business is concerned. I guess it comes down to a judgement call for me on any stories. And David was a Mayoral candidate. This was a story that I consulted widely on. As far as I’m concerned it was a perfectly legitimate business relationship that ended quickly because obviously there wasn’t a market for it.”
Other Evandale blow-ups also continue to amuse. Two days before the poll, the Bully’s Vernon tore into another council candidate, Cr Ted Shepherd, over an apparent quad bike planning spat (not available online). The local LNP establishment, including Newman government minister Ros Bates, had backed rival Glen Tozer in Division 9, who duly triumphed.
Interestingly, Ken Vernon is now a media adviser for Bates, who is on sick leave with a shoulder injury. The state’s Crime and Misconduct Commission is investigating the appointment of Bates’ son Ben Gommers as a departmental liaison officer in the department of transport and main roads director general and former MP Michael Caltabiano. Gommers is also on leave and is being treated for depression.
And last month, Gleeson slapped a headline-grabbing coverage “ban” on polyglot resort magnate Mayor Tom Tate, which was reversed two weeks later. Tate subsequently took out the No. 1 spot on the Gold Coast Power 100 list. Thankfully, Gleeson did not include himself in the list — unlike his predecessor Gould who anointed himself No 9 in 2009 and was subsequently secretly mocked around the newsroom as “No 9”.