The war between Australia’s top gossip columnists rolls on — this time over the case of the missing $8000. Crikey gets to the bottom of the gossip pile.
It’s been the talk of the newsroom at News Limited and Fairfax over recent days. And today Crikey can lay the mystery to rest.
It all started last week when Andrew Hornery, The Sydney Morning Herald’s gossip columnist, got hold of a smashing story. A reporter at the rival Sunday Telegraph, he discovered, had lost $8000 raised for charity. The story was set to run on Saturday, but was pulled after a phone call from Sunday Tele editor Mick Carroll and consultation with editors at the Herald.
The decision brought back memories of a controversial 2007 decision by Fairfax to spike a Good Weekend profile of Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng. Crikey understands, however, that Carroll didn’t heavy Hornery into pulling the piece. The Fairfax veteran decided not to go ahead because publishing the story could compound the grief of a third party (not the reporter who lost the money).
And that would have been that had The Australian Financial Review’s Rear Window columnist Joe Aston not stormed onto the playing field on Monday. Unlike at News, where reporters tend to stick together across mastheads, the former Joe Hockey adviser doesn’t mind giving his Fairfax comrades a tickle-up.
In his column, Aston said “Hornbags” pulled the Tele story, then laid the boot in by adding:
“Hornery ran another one — that Lachlan Murdoch and Sarah Murdoch had been ‘turned away from the painfully hip watering hole Baxter Inn recently’ and that ‘undeterred, Murdoch has become a fan of the venues, and is rumoured to have tried to hire [sister bar] Shady Pines a few months back with a $50,000 fee, which was politely declined’. None of this was checked with the Murdochs and Sarah took to Twitter, saying ‘I read we’ve been turned away from the coolest places that we also tried to hire out. Problem is they’re so cool I’ve never heard of either!’.”
There was little love lost beforehand between the two men, who posed side-by-side earlier this year for an Australian Women’s Weekly spread on the nation’s most influential gossip columnists. And there certainly isn’t now.
Two key details, however, didn’t make it into print at the Fin.
First: the identity of the journalist. The reporter who lost the cash is Jonathon Moran, one half of The Sunday Tele’s crack “JMo and Elle” gossip team. Moran, who also featured in the Women’s Weekly’s “s-xtet of saliciousness” spread, is currently travelling and unavailable for comment.
Second: the lost $8000 was in cash, not a cheque, as the Fin suggested. Exactly how the money went missing is unclear. But a News Ltd spokesman says Moran informed the company immediately about the loss and offered, without prompting, to pay back the money out of his own pocket.
“We conducted an investigation and accept Jonathon’s explanation and his offer to cover the loss,” the spokesman said.