Freddy Kreuger writes:
The bad feeling is legendary between Danny Weidler, sports columnist on the Fairfax Sun-Herald and Rebecca Wilson, a columnist on the Murdoch's Sydney Sunday Telegraph.
Snipe, slap, dig. No matter what you call it, these two have been poking at each other for some years. It's almost like they were rejected lovers such is the depth of their antipathy to each other.
Every opportunity is taken, but to outsiders, it's almost invisible. Most of the digs are in code, for a small group of insiders to read.
But last week Wilson took a big dip at Weidler and fellow Fairfax writer, Sydney and NSW rugby league coach Phil Gould. She pointed out, quite fairly in her column that both Gold and Weidler had mentioned the UK betting exchange, Betfair, without declared their allegiances with Kerry Packer's PBL, which plans to take a half interest in Betfair.
Gould works for the Nine Network on the Rugby League coverage such as The Footy Show, while Wilson said Weidler, who writes the Last Word column in the Sun-Herald, plans to take a job at Nine later this year.
A good point from Wilson, who is also on the just axed 110% with Tony Squires show on Seven that went from the ABC earlier this year and failed in commercial teleland.
Well, Danny didn't like being sprung and replied in the Sun-Herald of this week, obviously with official approval.
"In another paper, columnist Rebecca Wilson took aim at Last Word and said we should declare that I am moving to Channel Nine and ACP in two months. Wilson, who has appeared in this column because of two drink-driving charges and a charge of driving without a licence, should take a look at herself. I will not be an employee of Channel Nine until November and have not been paid a cent by the network. For those who would have missed it Wilson is an employee of Channel Seven. She doesn't declare her vested interest. Since February she has plugged Channel Seven at least 14 times in her column. She has also given numerous favourable mentions to individuals connected to the program on which she appears. She has bagged Channel Nine programs about their ratings and attacked Nine's sports personalties. She has used her column to beg people to watch her show on five occasions. She should have used it more, as it was axed last week."
Phew, talk about pots calling each other black or whatever. These two don't like each other.
There was that memorable Wilson column a year or so ago which asked who was the media figure who sat on a table by himself at a rugby league function because no players or other media would sit with him. That set off a volley or two across Sydney on a Sunday.
Of course Wilson was right, there should have been a declaration on an issue as sensitive about Betfair. It's an idea that could very well change the nature of the various football codes, horse racing, sports betting, sponsorship and start all sorts of rumours. Stories or commentary either for or against should have total disclosure about who those writing work for and their links to the various parties.
Gould for example is employed by Eastern Suburbs Roosters rugby league team, of which Nine Network, CEO, David Gyngell is a passionate supporter and board member. Gould also works for Nine and writes for Fairfax, so all comment on this issue should, in the name of good transparency, be accompanied by a disclosure. That way the sniping from the likes of Wilson has no force.
Wilson had nothing in her Smellie column on Sunday, except a nice mention of the sort of coverage Nine was planning for the NRL finals in a few weeks time.
She quoted Danny Weidler's prospective boss, Steve Crawley, who is the EP of Nine's NRL coverage. Oh, and there was a dig at Nine's NRL Footy Show for offering a lot of money for the Melbourne Storm player outed for 18 weeks for king hitting another player. Wilson said he spoke to the Sunday Telegraph for nothing.
But then she wasn't being fully transparent. News Ltd, which owns the Smellie, employs Wilson, effectively employees the Melbourne Storm player, Danny Williams, because the company owns the Storm.
For all its size, Sydney still is a small town.
Sydney Sunday cports columnists give 110% in professional rivalry
By Crikey sports editor Patrick Fitzgerald
Sports gossip columnists are a naturally competitive lot, but for some that rivalry goes well beyond the traditional antagonism of working for rival papers. For some it’s totally personal.
The most bitchy judging by how often they seldom waste an opportunity to have a crack at the accuracy or credibility of each others stories, is feisty and opinionated Rebecca Wilson in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph, and the equally combative Danny Weidler with his ‘Last Word’ in the Sun-Herald.
But even by normal standards Weidler really went for the Wilson jugular yesterday, and felt his case was so strong this time he even abandoned their normal convention of not naming each other, as he gave her an almighty and highly personal spray. You can just imagine Wilson now building up such a head of steam on her way to Athens that not even a big night out at the Plaka will placate her by the time she pens her first Olympics column by next weekend.
Very much having the last word (well at least this week) at the foot of his column under the heading “Something to Declare” Weidler penned a stinging attack on rival columnist Rebecca Wilson her habit of plugging Channel Seven.
Weidler hasn’t pulled his punches and picked his moment well to win by a clear knockout, although his use of her driving charges is totally gratuitous to the actual issue of conflicts of interest. But Wilson regularly displays via the failed “110%” that logic is not one of her
strong suits. In fact TV exposes her as actually a bit of lightweight when it comes to discussing the deeper issues of sport. But as a gossip columnist even while also showing a fondness at times for presenting something as fresh like her “we hear rumours” Bill Hararrigan piece yesterday, she presents a very readable column. How much of it falls into her lap from all the myriad Murdoch sources only her own colleagues can best judge, just as Weidler would be a similar beneficiary via Fairfax.
But what can’t be contested from reading both columns yesterday, is that they’re both full of plugs for their respective networks current and future. But how can both these columnists not comment every week on topics involving network sport or their personalities? In fact it’s so impossible there is only one answer. That columnist can’t be affiliated or retained by any TV network in any role whatsoever. Only then can they be said to be a genuine TV “clean skin”. Wilson for now fails that test totally, while Weidler is being a little disingenuous in saying he’s not yet employed by Nine or been paid a cent by the network. Don’t expect him to upset James Packer any time soon!
So while it might be more of the pot calling the kettle black as they bitch on, there is a real issue at play here for both papers. Wilson couldn’t help herself yesterday after plugging her upcoming Athens columns, by adding: “I will see you on Channel 7 for the opening ceremony”. So gone from “110%” after this week’s final show, but not yet forgotten by Seven it seems.
Ok Rebecca, your silence on the demise of your TV panel show might be personally understandable, but for you to attack Weidler for some kind of undeclared future Packer and network association; no wonder Seven’s viewers rejected what was coming out of your mouth? Should we expect that every time you utter the words Rugby League, AFL or Rugby Union or Foxtel/Fox Sports, and have anything positive to say about them, you should declare you are employed by News Corp that has a vested commercial interest in all of them? .
If we held you to that level of accountability as you seem to imply for Weidler, would all your conflicting plugs including the Seven network as well, make you the Melissa Hoyer of the Sports World?