Rupert Murdoch held a special conference for News Corp’s newspaper
division over the weekend at the Mexican beach resort, Cancun. But it doesn’t seem like it
was much of a holiday for the Sun King’s loyal editors, executives
and senior journos.

Rupert gets Condy Rice for gab-fest

Sealed section March 19

Rupert can definitely draw some big names and every three years he
organises a line-up of high profile speakers for his
think-tank/indoctrination session – and this time is no exception.

One of the special guest speakers will be none other than Condoleeza
Rice, George Bush’s National Security Advisor – though she won’t
actually be attending the conference. Her speech will be made via
satellite.

As if we needed more evidence that Rupert’s relationship with the Bush
Administration is a just little too cosy. The Guardian has the story
here: http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1172627,00.html

The UK papers are all over the fact that Conservative Party leader
Michael Howard has been asked to address the conference – increasing
speculation that Rupert’s UK papers – The Sun and The Times – may back
the Tories at the next election. Tony Blair spoke at the 1995
conference when he was opposition leader and, lo and behold, Rupert
made the big switch.

Blair’s former spin-doctor Alastair Campbell is also expected to speak at the conference. Read the BBC online report here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3525272.stm

And the Financial Times has provided an amusing insight on the leisure activities available at Rupert’s get-together:

“It should be quite a party in Cancun this weekend as Rupert Murdoch’s
annual staff get-together hits the Mexican resort. News Corp attendees
have been handed a form to fill in with their leisure time requests.

“You can choose from activities such as water skiing, golf and rock
climbing. There’s also an option to lounge by the pool – a trap,
Observer hears, to weed out the lazy.

“Also on offer is tennis with the veteran tycoon. Of Murdoch’s senior
staffers, a number are devotees of the game, but can they all contrive
to lose?

“Another option is swimming with dolphins (swimming with sharks is mandatory).”

Record Australian contingent at Rupert’s love-in

Rupert Murdoch must be feeling really generous at the moment as
the Australian contingent at his Cancun love-in appears to be well in
excess of 30.

The big news is that Bruce Guthrie, recently recruited editor of
The Australian Magazine, cracked an invite. Magazine editors don’t get
these trips – so he has obviously been earmarked for big things.
Guthrie left News Ltd in 1989 for The Sunday Age when he was deputy
editor of The Melbourne Herald. However, he’s been to these Rupert
love-ins before and remembers seeing the gold taps on Barry Diller’s
private jets at one of them in the 1980s.

Fairfax is looking silly for letting Guthrie’s return to The Age
founder last year just because colourful directors Ron Walker and Sir
Rod Carnegie didn’t like The Age’s coverage of Crown Casino during the
1990s when he edited The Age and took on Jeff Kennett.

And who was one of the only Australian News Ltd footsoldiers under
editors level invited to the Mexican holiday resort? Daily Telegraph
attack puppy David Pemberthy – he must be slated for big things and
clearly hasn’t seen his career stunted by that outrageous “5-star
detention centres” column last year.

The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly is also attending what is
probably his 6th or 7th such love-in. Barry Cassidy should probably
have pointed this out when he was a no-show on Insiders this morning,
although he did manage to file for The Weekend Australian.

Other heavyweight columnists who made the trip include Terry McCrann,
Piers Akerman and, heaven forbid, Andrew Bolt. This explained the very
rare Insiders panel this morning that lacked either Bolt or Akerman and
led to axed Seven political chief Glenn Milne cropping up for his first
appearance along with The Australian’s Misha Schubert.

Akerman managed to produce a column for The Sunday Tele this morning but Bolt was a no show in The Sunday Herald Sun.

The speeches by Blair’s former spindoctor Alistair Campbell and George
W Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice would suggest the
message coming from the world’s most powerful and pro-war media magnate
is to hold the line. Maybe that is why News Ltd defence expert Ian
McPhedran has made the trip as he has plenty of stories to tell from
his time in Baghdad.

There are a number of first-timers who got the nod including the
surprise choice of Herald Sun classified advertising boss Fiona Mellor.

We know that Sunday Telegraph editor Jeni Cooper is over there but she
is being accompanied by Phil “Buzz” Rothfield a former Tele sports
columnist and sports editor who was integral to the rejigging of the
Sunday Tele’s design.

Sunday Tele deputy editor Nick Cater was the poor sod ordered to stay
home and put out today’s paper – a fate that Daily Tele deputy editor
Glenn Stanaway also faced when editor Campbell Reid packed his bags for
the trip.

Peter Judd, the Geelong Advertiser editor who is returning circulation
to pre-1990 levels, also got a ticket to Mexico which has amused many
of his staff as regional editors don’t normally get a look in. The Townsville Bulletin’s editor
John Affleck made it too.

Word around News Ltd is there will be a big announcement late next week
with one of the Sydney-based editors “under pressure”. This is not
connected to the fact that The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris
Mitchell has not made the trip due to an eye infection. Oz editor
Michael Stutchbury is flying the flag for the paper alongwith Paul
Kelly.

We’re not yet sure if spouses have been invited this time and please
keep sending through the names in attendance to [email protected].


Latham knocks back Cancun as editor gloats about going

A Crikey life member writes:

“Trawling through News Ltd’s PNG Post Courier website, I found a gem of
shameless self promotion. Not only does the Nambawan (Pidgin) daily
give themselves a huge rap, but they make mention of the fact that
their fearless leader, editor Bob Howarth, has made the long trip from
Port Moresby to join the love-in with the News Corp heavies in Mexico.

“You really have to see how an editor can make a big name for himself
when transferred to a Pacific posting. Bob Howarth turns up to every
social function going and surprise, surprise his picture is in the
paper at least once a week for his troubles. His local staff think he
is God himself and know that placing the Boss in copy and pictorial is
a very wise career move.”

We had a quick look for the story on the PNG paper’s website but couldn’t find anything: http://www.postcourier.com.pg/

However, we were most interested to read in today’s AFR Rear Window
column that Mark Latham declined an invitation to speak at Cancun.
Latham claims to love club-busting and if he becomes the first
Australian PM not to get cosy with media moguls then all power to him.

Rupert’s love-in all “work, work, work”
Sealed section March 23

The Guardian’s “media monkey” has been keeping a close watch on
Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper get-together in the Mexican resort town of
Cancun and reports that all the News Corp hacks and executives who got
left behind can be little smug today:

“Not only has the weather been awful with torrential rain since they
all piled into buses for an “activity afternoon” on Saturday, but the
work rate has been punishing. According to Monkey’s spies on the
ground, back to back seminars starting with breakfast at 6am have made
staying at home a much more enticing option.

“Monkey’s Cancun correspondent got into the lift one evening after
being chucked out of the bar to make way for a “private party” only to
overhear one female delegate at the 200-strong conference in Mexico
moan: ‘I’m up at 6am tomorrow morning. It’s work, work, work.'”

And the other guests at the exclusive Ritz Carlton hotel have been unimpressed since Rupert’s minions moved in.

Read it all here (though you do need to register for the Guardian Unlimited website now): http://media.guardian.co.uk/diary/0,11503,355024,00.html

================================

Meanwhile, Rupert’s empire has also been making news closer to home….

Jeni Cooper’s new Porsche
Sealed section March 16

Crikey has a new correspondent, Sunday Telegraph editor Jeni Cooper,
who has kindly given us the low-down on how Lachlan Murdoch has just
given her the keys to a brand new $110,000 Porsche.

By Jeni Cooper
Tabloid editor and Porshe driver

Like most editors, I don’t relish publicity about myself but I’d rather
you got the story right so of course I’ll help! It started off about
four years ago with a challenge from Lachlan Murdoch that if the
circulation gap between The Sunday Telegraph and The Sun Herald reached
200,000, he would give me a Porsche.

I think the sales difference between the two papers at the time was
around 127,000. In December 2003, the difference was 203,475.

As usual when Lachlan is in town, there was a dinner with the editors
and some of the executives on Friday. I can’t say I gave the Porsche
much thought and I couldn’t have been more surprised when he made a
speech and gave me the keys.

The car was sitting outside the restaurant.

Of course I’m proud of how well The Sunday Telegraph is going and
that’s because I have the best team in the country and they keep on
getting better.

Cheers
Jeni Cooper
Editor
The Sunday Telegraph

CRIKEY: Stand by for a Porsche-claim outbreak amongst News Corp editors
around the world. You’ve got to feel sorry for someone like Herald Sun
editor-in-chief Peter Blunden who inherited the highest penetration
newspaper in the world eight years ago and has maintained fabulous
sales of 550,000 in a market of just 4 million. The SMH’s Spike column
had some detail on the Porsche yarn this morning but weren’t big enough
to explain that it was for kicking the butt of their sister paper, The
Sun-Herald. Check out Spike’s yarn here: http://smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/15/1079199162415.html

The big question is why News Ltd went the tight-fisted option and gave
their star Sunday editor the use of a company car rather than shell out
the $110,000 and hand over the full set of papers and ownership rights.
If Jeni resigned tomorrow, we somehow don’t think she’d have the keys
to the $110,000 Boxster for very long. Maybe it will become a
rotational thing each year for the best performing editor. There is an
irony here given that Sun-Herald editor Phil McLean was seen by many as
extremely unlucky to miss out on the editorship of The Daily Telegraph
when Col Allan became editor-in-chief in 1999. It was Lachlan who
didn’t want McLean who then left and has had his butt kicked by one of
Lachlan’s favourite tabloid editors. How does Fairfax respond when a
rival editor gets a Porsche for doing so well. It can’t be a very
comfortable time for McLean.

Jeni’s Porsche still turning heads
Sealed section March 18

Jeni Cooper’s new Porsche got another write up in today’s Oz Media
diary, with Amanda Meade commenting, “It’s difficult to recall a time
when a media story has spread so fast and caused as much excitement.”

However the Diary reports Cooper was “given” the luxury sports car and
makes no mention of the fact it is a company car – but they did have a
lovely picture of Cooper sitting in the new Boxster.

Meanwhile, a bloke who claims to have once met a Murdoch or two writes:

This is what you wrote about Jeni Cooper’s new Porsche: “The big
question is why News Ltd went the tight-fisted option and gave their
star Sunday editor the use of a company car rather than shell out the
$110,000 and hand over the full set of papers and ownership rights.”

You’re outrageous. News Ltd decides to pay the insurance, rego, fuel —
everything — by making the Porsche a company car, and you accuse them
of being tight-fisted? You don’t have a scintilla of objectivity.

And a cynical subscriber observes:

Is it merely coincidental that young Lachlan Murdoch presents Jeni
Cooper with the keys to a new Porsche Boxster around about the same
time as the Daily Terror is running a promotion giving away a Porsche
Boxster?

Perhaps your newest correspondent would like to comment.

CRIKEY: Did the Murdochs negotiate a special deal for the new company
car? Probably, you don’t get to be worth $10 billion by paying full
freight.

Is the car Jeni’s or the company’s?

Sealed section March 21

The Australian’s Media diarist Amanda Meade was
criticised by a Crikey subscriber in an email for failing to point out
that the Porsche Boxster presented to her by Lachlan Murdoch earlier
this month was a company car. It seems not as Amanda replied as
follows: “In fact the car is hers. If she walks out tomorrow she can
take it with her.”

Wow, does that mean she has ownership and News Ltd is picking up all the running costs as well? If so, we dips the lid to Lachy.

Peter Fray

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