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People were shaking their heads when Brian Rogers was appointed editor of The West Australian earlier this year but now they are downright depressed with what is going on inside Perth’s monopoly tabloid.

Every other media outlet in town ran with the story except for The Worst which pulled it at the last moment. Editor Brian Rogers tried to claim it was a case of the journalists being wrong and the politicians being right but this has not gone down well with staff.

For instance, check out this email that arrived from a Worst staffer last week.

“West reporters were generally dissatisfied with the glib explanation Rogers gave to staff on Wed evening after being called upon to explain his actions. He said he pulled the story because he wasn’t happy with one paragraph in it and because a govt minister had lodged a complaint with the press council over a previous Southwell story on the convention centre project. Staff asked him why, in the five hours between his decison to pull the story and the final edition deadline, he did nothing to sort out whatever problems or concerns he may have had with the copy. He needed more time, and did not want to make a decision under pressure, he said.

He claimed his performance on the radio interview was not his fault, because he was “cut off”. This is not borne out by the transcript, which has been circulated widely.

West House committee met Thurs to discuss the inadequacy of his responses and later sent him a letter expressing serious concern over his actions and asking him to use dispute-settling procedures in the Award to sort out the problems he seems to have with Southwell.

Cheers, anon

The irony of that radio interview is that it was done by Rogers’ predecessor Paul Murray on 6PR, which is one of the Southern Cross Broadcasting stations in town that is not exactly setting the world on fire in the ratings.

To be fair to Mooner Murray he would never have handled things this badly during his time editing the paper. Rogers has raised much suspicion because his wife sits on a board with Ken Court, Richard Court’s brother. The big fear is that the conservative WA News board has stuck a Liberal sympathiser in to run the show in an election year. And he’s a Liberal sympathiser who hasn’t worked in newspapers for more than 20 years.

Many people thought Rogers was for the high jump in his previous job as news director at Channel Nine in Perth because it was trailing Seven so badly in the ratings.

Then lo and behold the WA News board hires him, although it wasn’t exactly the board who did it because lacklustre CEO Denis Thompson was the only one who did any of the interviews.

Let’s hope Perpetual Trustees are shaking their heads at the moment, especially former journalist turned fund manager John Sevior. You see Perpetual are the largest shareholder in WA News with about 13 per cent. But good old Ken Court sits on their board of Perpetual as does Warwick Kent, who is a director of WA News.

If there was any board that it made sense for Crikey to join, then this was it. The incumbents are all ageing Perth businessmen with no newspaper experience. But in the end we only got 20 per cent of the vote, in part because the board applied the usual closed shop tactic of saying there were no vacancies on what was then a five man board.

Therefore, shareholders were told there were two candidates vying for only one vacancy and that they should support Tony Manford, which the donkey like institutions dutifully did, including Perpetual, which should have known better given it is trying to carve out a reputation for institutional activism.

What chance is there that the Liberal-leaning board will be pulling Rogers in and giving him a gobful over this latest episode? Not much. And all the while the value and credibility of the masthead diminishes.

We hear that The Australian’s Media section have a piece running on the whole debacle this week. The Fin Review’s Rear Window column has already had a go and now we’re weighing in.

Is sucking up to the Libs really worth all of this pain?

You can understand the Seven Network getting stuck into the yarn because its controlling shareholder Kerry Stokes is really pissed off about not getting the Convention Centre contract himself.

At the heart of the controversy is claims that the final taxpayer outlay will be closer to $145 million but this is something that readers of The Worst are still in the dark over. The government claims it is still $110 million.

Kerry Packer is undoubtedly pleased about the whole thing because the site for the Convention Centre is owned by him and John Roberts from Multiplex. It may have cost them an arm and a leg in the past but the good old Court government have decided to give big Kerry a leg up at the expense of little Kerry in an election year.

And to think that Rogers and his wife stayed on Stokes’s yacht during the Olympics. You’d think little Kerry would have given him the word on how dodgy the convention centre deal was.

Lastly, this is the tail end of another email about some of the things going on at the Worst:

“The person in charge of IT at the West has the whole department climbing the walls such that they’ve given Management the word that unless something is done about her, they’re out. Some of them have actually gone because of her. There was another revolution too in the photography dept with the entire dept, except two, jacking up that had Pic Editor, Neil Eliot, shown the door. Apparently he couldn’t manage without screaming at people and they’d just had enough. Thompson (the MD) too seems to have put in his resignation, but it isn’t until next year that it becomes effective.”

Cheers, your spy at The West

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

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