We know net surfers like bite size chunks of information so each week we are going to produce a variety of juicy morsels about what is going down in media land, the end of an era at BRW, more defections from The Fin Review and varying responses to Crikey features this week.
Our piece last week on Robert Gottliebsen’s departure from BRW to The Australian provoked a lot of response from various parties. The man who oversaw the departure, Fairfax Business Publications chief Michael Gill, is putting on a brave face maintaining relations with Fairfax chief executive Fred Hilmer are good. Gottie was left alone to bring in the BRW profits until Gill came along in 1998 and started telling him what to do and imposing editors on Gottie. BRW editor Neil Shoebridge, a Gill appointment, told his staff at 4.30pm on Friday, February 25, that Gottie was leaving and there was a suggestion that lawyers might be involved. The mag had to quickly fill two extra pages and duly noted the following in this week’s edition under the headline FAREWELL ROBERT: “After 19 years, BRW’s founder and chief commentator, Robert Gottliebsen, has left the magazine. We wish Robert well in his future endeavours. His weekly Comment will not be replaced immediately.”

It was certainly a sudden departure which would suggest it was hardly amicable. And one can only wonder how many millions the payout will be after more than 20 years with Fairfax. Gottie does not appear in the five highest paid at Fairfax but this might be because that only has to include managers and he was stripped of these responsibilities by Gill and Hilmer. If former SMH editor-in-chief John Alexander got $1.9 million and former Age editor Bruce Guthrie picked up $1.2 million, then surely Gottie must be headed for more than $2 million. He certainly deserves it and one suspects BRW will struggle even more in his absence.

It has also been pointed out to Crikey that The Australian’s editor-in-chief David Armstrong was primarily behind the wooing of Gottie, not business editor Michael Stutchbury, who now has to juggle a truckload of columnists and all the attendant egos in his Weekend edition. It’s an embarrassment of riches.


The exodus from the Fin Review is gathering pace with news just to hand that heavy hitter Alan Deans has thrown in the towel and joined his old Fairfax mates with Kerry Packer at The Bulletin. Deans has never got on well with his Fin Review rival Glenn Burge, who replaced him as business editor of the Sydney Morning Herald a few years back. It seems Deans was reluctant to take up a specific round on returning from New York but grudgingly settled for telecommunications when told he had to pick something. However, when Rowan Callick returned from Hong Kong and was not required to take a round, Deans cried foul and resigned. Burge, an equally short of stature protege of John Alexander, might me happy to see the back of another potential threat but the brain drain from the Fin Review is not an encouraging development for its readers.

Afterall, IT editor Grant Butler quit a few weeks back to pursue a more lucrative career in online publishing and former banking editor Ian Rogers has also resigned – just weeks after being moved onto the Olympics round to make way for Sean Aylmer’s return from Canberra. Aylmer is considered another Burge ally and is a good reporter in his own right. Six months on the AFR is still looking for a replacement for yours truly on the Rear Window column although Christine Lacy is doing a good job as a long term stop-gap measure.


The Crikey journalistic registers have thrown up an interesting one. Where do you classify a journalist who is working for Melbourne radio station 3AW and a Liberal politician at the same time. The hack/flak concerned is a certain Charles Collins who formerly worked at 3MP and is now a casual reporter for 3AW. Charles is occasionally sent out on political stories and gets to ask political questions. This makes it very interesting when he then pops into the office of Liberal MP Lorraine Elliott – the former wife of John Elliott – and puts out press releases damning Labor’s Community Services minister Christine Campbell.

Charles is also married to the woman who played Bea Smith in Prisoner, so Crikey is not going to say anything disparaging about the lad who we presume is a great bloke and a very talented two-hat wearer. Given that 3AW has been accused of blatant pro-Liberal bias during the Kennett years, it is surprising they would leave themselves so wide open. Then again, Southern Corss Broadcasting is chaired by former National Party Minister Peter Nixon and two of its former staff – Ian Cover and Bernie Finn – were both MPs in the second Kennett government. And it hasn’t taken long for Jeff to return to the 3AW fold. He started two weeks back as a television reporter with Neil Mitchell on Thursday morning, although he failed to show last Thursday. This was a sensible attempt to keep his head down until the furore dies down over how a $50,000 state-owned portrait of Sir Henry Bolte finished up in the Packer wing of his Surrey Hills home.


Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden seems unable to grapple with the concept of the internet. News has filtered back third hand (ie we did not hear this from someone who was in the room) that he instructed everyone in news conference not to read www.crikey.com.au. Everyone who reads the Herald Sun still has no concept that www.jeffed.com had an impact on the Victorian election because Blunden banned it from any mentions during the state election. That’s responsible behaviour during an election when you are the most influential media outlet. Banning a critic from getting mentioned in the paper is a very Murdochian thing but in the internet era you can’t try to ban your staff from even reading the site. This is a democracy Peter and even Murdoch minions are allowed to read what they like.


The completely opposite story has apparently filtered out of the editorial conference room of the Sydney Morning Herald where the editorial heavyweights urged everyone to read our site. It seems they liked the material on Telegraph editor-in-chief Col Allan and on how Rupert Murdoch throws his weight around to get what he wants politically. Here at Crikey we don’t wish to play favourites and we hope that all journalists read our site. We’re on the side of good journalists and good journalism and over the months ahead we will doubtless come into conflict with most media outlets at some point. But that’s healthy, isn’t it?


This column is effectively going to provide some weekly competition to Jonathon Este who writes the lively Diary column in The Australian’s Media Section. If anyone has any good gossip on Pommy Jonny, or anyone else for that matter, please email it through to [email protected].

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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