Can you listen to the radio and watch TV while surfing the net reading a paper? Media junkie Hillary Bray likes to try.

It wasn’t exactly a case of “hold the front page” when the news came out on Thursday that Rural Press had bought the Bendigo Advertiser and the Wimmera Mail-Times. It should have been.

Both papers were owned by New Zealand’s INL and INL is 44 per cent owned by none of than a certain K R Murdoch. Rupe selling Australian newspapers? When did that last happen?

PS What is INL doing with the reported $20 million it has raised from the sale? Reports suggest it will put it towards paying off some of the $700 million debt it has racked up ploughing cash into its local pay-TV operations. Sound familiar?

Cross-promotion exclusive!

Sitting there in pride of place in the Oz’s op-ed pages on Friday was none other than arch-sleazebag Dick Morris and how was the great man described to readers?

“Dick Morris, a former senior adviser to president Bill Clinton, is the author, most recently, of Power Plays: Win or Lose How History’s Great Political Leaders Play the Game (HarperCollins, 2002)” or to put it more simply “This is a cross-promotion with another branch of Rupert’s Evil Empire”.

PS Speaking of the Oz opinion pages, lefties everywhere have been much chagrined by the appointment of Tom Switzer as editor and are pointing to the regular appearance of Tim Blair and Janet Albrechtsen as evidence of some gigantic right wing conspiracy.

The invisible journalist

AAP hacks are investigating a very curious yarn the case of the invisible journalist.

Last Monday, AAP was the only media outlet represented in court for ASIC’s action against former One.Tel chiefs Jodee Rich, Brad Keeling, Mark Silbermann and John Greaves, where it was revealed the compensation being sought had blown out to $93 million. The next day, however, the story appeared in newspapers across the land under the bylines of various reporters rewritten slightly and sometimes with an extra background par slotted in after five minutes in the clippings file. A clear case of the invisible journalist if not invisible journalists.

Trip wire

Has all the negative publicity on Media Watch about publishing AAP advisory notices on the “Breaking News” section of the Age and SMH sites made Fairfax Online extra cautious about publishing any news updates at all?

If you clicked on either The Age or the Herald at 10 am on Tuesday, Breaking News had last been updated at 4:03 pm for the Age and 4:05 pm for the SMH the previous day. Since the papers had gone to bed, a couple of interesting stories had turned up on the wire the UN asking for donations as a million Afghan refugees returned home, Lleyton Hewitt getting the number one seeding at Wimbledon and Moody’s downgrading the credit ratings of various telcos, including Optus’ and AAPT’s parents.

Deadlines, deadlines

Everyone knows that the Australian’s Media section has awkward deadlines but that should make the hacks even more acutely aware of the need to produce “timeless” copy. The radio ratings front page story that appeared the day after a new survey but was written before the figures was embarrassing in the extreme.

Now the poor Diary writer, Amanda Meade, has fallen into the same pit. She ran an item on Tassie TV newsreader Stephen Titmus and his audacious bid to keep moonlighting while embarking on a new career in public relations. A good yarn but he’d already been given the boot from his TV gig two days before.

The one to watch

Seven’s programmer Chris O’Mara is under big, big pressure. TV insiders say he has come up with one of the worst selections of Sunday night fillums the network has ever seen. Sunday night ratings are vital to success and Seven has only won two of the 16 weeks.

At the same time, O’Mara has compounded his sins by dithering over what to do with last year’s ratings success, “Always Greener” keeping it on the shelf when ratings resumed in February, then rushing it to air when the slide set in, only to move it to Monday nights because he had totally misread the market and persevered with “The Weakest Link”.

There’s been some market gossip that sacked Nine executive David Leckie may get a job at Seven. TV insiders say that Little Kerry should be rushing out with the cheque book because unlike O’Mara and Maureen Plasvic, Leckie knows how to win.

Seven runs a strange operational apartheid regime, with a head office in North Sydney well away from the actual coalface. Plasvic’s background is in marketing, and while she’s strong at selling TV, the arrangement only highlights her lack of inside knowledge of what makes it a success.

As Seven’s ratings (and revenues) slip, Leckie is suddenly the one watch.

The very secret life of us

The Secret Life of Us has suddenly made the Gloomy City hip and happening but the Ten show has vanished from the pages of the Herald Sun. The last story we could find on the program in Melbourne’s favourite newspaper was from early May and all it had to say was that pro-lifers were up in arms over an episode where Claudia Karvan’s character has an abortion.

This couldn’t have anything to do with reports that thin-skinned Hun editor in chief Peter Blunden was not happy with the way a Herald-Sun journo was portrayed on the show, could it?

Le fin at the Fin

Yet another career at the Financial Review is over, with workplace writer Stephen Long going off to ABC Radio. He joins a long line of big names departing Ivor Ries, Tom Switzer, Christine Lacey, Steve Lewis, Aaron Patrick and Stephen Koukoulas leaving gaps that just aren’t being filled.

To add to the problem, a whole range of female reporters are either on or about to take maternity leave marketing editor Rochelle Burberry, Canberra bureau chief Katherine Murphy, and three IT writers including senior reporter Emma Connors and Fred Hilmer has a policy of only filling these gaps in extraordinary circumstances.

Editor Glenn Burge is being threatened by revolt in the ranks. The recent episode when Melbourne bureau chief Mark Skulley was rushed to hospital for a suspected heart attack that turned out to be stress-related heart palpitations due, it seems, to overwork has provided a vivid and unsettling illustration for staff of everything that’s wrong.

Rove and Rover

Vizard would have just lifted Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks” but Rove McManus seems to have come up with something more insidious.

His show recently featured a segment where viewers brought in their pets dressed up in all sorts of whimsical outfits backed up by a piece on a dog that had been modelling fashion gear in ads for My Dog. It was followed by a commercial break where surprise, surprise the first ad was for My Dog. Then, in case their were some very slow viewers, the owner of the modelling dog appeared My Dog t-shirt and all. To complete the overkill, Rove worked the words “my dog” into a joke and before another ad break where guess what product was promoted.

My Dog is owned by Mars, the largest family company in the world. Something that size would know something about subtlety you’d think.

Lurks, perks and ethics

The New Statesperson magazine has lifted the lid on some of the lurks and perks in freebies and contra British journalists receive and asked how it influences their reporting at: this link

Anyone game to do anything local or dob in repeat offenders?

Only in the tabloids

People in most professions would expect a rebuke from the boss if their drunken exploits were reported. Not in the wonderful world of the tabloids.

We hear that Daily Telegraph editor Campbell Reid e-mailed his chief state political reporter David Penberthy telling him he was a legend after Crikey ran this Budget night colour a weeks back: “The drunkest journalist at the Budget must surely go to The Daily Telegraph’s state political reporter David Penberthy. Dave is a nice fellow and quite a party animal so it comes as no surprise to hear that he had one hour’s sleep when the alarm went off to make the four hour bus trip home from Canberra on Wednesday morning. Dave spotted what he thought was a glass of Coke next to his bed and went for the big scull only to discover it was red wine. It was a projectile apparently.”

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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