Jack Pacholli, Melbourne’s most notorious newspaper publisher, died this week – but few will mourn the loss.
The long-time publisher of The Toorak Times, Jack Pacholli, was a rogue who recklessly defamed people on a regular basis but escaped the full force of the law by going bankrupt and having his dog as chairman of the company that owned the newspaper.

ABC Mornings host Jon Faine broke the news today when son Mick rang in at about 11.15am to make the announcement.

Faine had recently been in discussions with Mick about possibly interviewing his late father but when Faine asked him on air this morning how Jack would have reacted, Mick said “he probably would have told you to f*ck off”.

Faine didn’t dump the call because it was probably the way Jack should have gone – outraging to the very end.

At one stage Frank Costigan served writs on several milkbar owners for articles in The Toorak Times they were distributing that criticised that very famous royal commission he was conducting.

Crikey is certainly not in Jack Pacholli’s league but we do take risks and we have been sued so we probably should call for a few stories on the old rogue – but let’s not have too much eulogising. Offerings to boss @crikey.com.au.

Jack Pacholli will not be missed

A subscriber writes:

Thank goodness you’re not, as you say, in Jack Pacholli’s league…that taking risks and being sued by the likes of Steve Price can still enable you to make a special contribution to our media. Otherwise I wouldn’t be a subscriber! Though I often disagree with your stance on a range of issues, at least I think I know where you’re coming from, and generally you rock the boat in a positive way. You refer to the former editor of the Toorak Times as an ‘old rogue’ – it almost sounds affectionate.

In the 1970’s, he defamed my father, who at the time was Secretary of the Premiers Department in Victoria, under Rupert Hamer. The Liberal government decided to create the Office of Womens Affairs – probably not a universally popular move among some of their own party. The first Director, whose first name was Penny, was appointed on the standard terms of the day, which included several months’ probation, followed by a review of performance to decide whether the appointment would be permanent. Various conservative forces set to work to discredit her during her probationary period, and I recall that the muckraking unearthed two previously unknown facts – one, that she had once, many years before, been a member of the Communist Party; two, that in her distant past, she had written a piece for Farrago, the Melbourne Uni student paper, on female masturbation.

A number of traditionalists were predictably outraged – she was clearly not a fit and proper person to have this inaugural role! My father started to experience being frequently taken aside by Liberal politicians, who did their best to lean on him to terminate her appointment. Some of their wives began to speak to my mother at functions, or call her at home, to encourage her to persuade my father to this course also.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, the Toorak Times published a couple of pieces in support of the ‘sacking’ position, which I believe played a significant part in fueling that fire and a vitriolic campaign focussing on what action some people believed my father should take. The one I can still picture took all the front page. The snappy headline read ‘Penny Red and Kenny Green’, and it went on to strongly imply that the only reason that my father could possibly have for keeping her on in the job would be (hint, hint) a ‘relationship’. For such a publication to go out (free of charge of course) to thousands of homes was extraordinarily difficult and hurtful for both my parents, my mother in particular. And the ‘quiet words’ and phonecalls increased in intensity.

My father, like many others, sought legal advice. He was advised that he would likely be successful in bringing a suit against the paper, but was also told that he would be ‘joining a long queue’. He ultimately decided against legal action, and keeping the issue alive longer than necessary.

He also was a traditionalist, and believed in ‘doing the right thing’. In spite of feeling great vulnerability, he held to the ‘rules’. He was an
old-fashioned public servant who believed in ‘objective and fearless advice’ and a loyal public service. He was clear that there were no grounds under the regulations for dismissing the Director. As far as he could judge, she was doing well the job she was charged to do. And he held to the due process of assessing her performance against the job criteria at the end of her probationary period. In the event, the decision was never made, as she resigned before the assessment.

I am very proud of my father for his courage and principle in the face of the threats, intimidation and smear, aided and abetted by the front page innuendo of the Toorak Times. When journalists fabricate stories and use their subjects without care or accountability, they are not ‘likeable rogues’; they impoverish their profession. Jack Pacholli will not be missed by our family.

David Green
Melbourne,

A former Toorak Times staff member writes:

I worked at the Toorak Times in the 1970s. One day early in the piece I took a phone call for Jack Buchanan, went around the office asking who he was, then returned to the phone only to have it snatched from me by Pacholli, who grumbled “That’s me.” A staff member told me about several other aliases for future reference.

I never saw the dog, but the editor used to get a visit every Friday from a young woman bearing a bottle of wine. We were told never to knock on his office door while she was there. Jack later told me he had a share in a massage parlour and an antiques business.

He often asked us to wait a day or two before presenting our pay cheques to the bank. It was always a mystery why cash flow was so poor, given that he openly sold editorial as well as advertising space.

Jack was once charged with selling shares in a WA emerald deposit. But he didn’t have any rights to the territory and the emerald he touted around turned out to be a crystal. Because of an argument between the WA and Victorian authorities about jurisdiction he got away with a relatively small fine.

Jack used to advertise debentures in his newspaper business, promising rates of return that were way above the norm. There was a court case with an Indian doctor who invested quite a lot of money and lost it.

The last time I saw Jack was in the 1990s when he was running a secondhand furniture shop in Smith Street, Fitzroy. He was adamant that he would get back into the newspaper business.

Tyro Typesetter