Christian Kerr, Crikey’s political correspondent, writes:

I’ll say it upfront. Dave Penberthy, the new editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, is a mate. We have drunk at the Nippon Club. We have dined at the BBQ King on Goulburn Street. We would have heard the chimes at midnight together afterwards if we weren’t striving to reach the high notes of It’s Tragedy at karaoke – and throughout Dave has conducted himself like a senior journalist.

Dave was a good uni trot and student newspaper editor until he was dragged before South Australia’s PC commissars and charged with thought crimes. They didn’t think a typical student newspaper gag was funny. Too bad. The Socialist Workers Party loss has been News Limited’s – and Telegraph readers’ – gain.

Dave is a tabloid man through and through. He holds that infamous history of the London Sun, Stick It Up Your Punter, in much the same regard as generations of eminent Victorians venerated Samuel Smiles’s moral manual Self-Help. His work is quirky, clever and makes a point by laughing along with people, not talking down to them.

The Telegraph is Australia’s most self-consciously tabloid tabloid. Dave knows the formula is wonderful – and slightly ridiculous. Dave knows the significance of brilliant populism, of the unique tabloid mixture of speaking for the people, loud and proud, while not taking yourself entirely seriously. Dave should restore the paper to Col Allan-like levels of fabulousness.

Campbell Reid’s departure from the editor’s chair was “unexpected”, say sources at the News’ Holt Street HQ . Almost immediately rumbling sounds started to emerge from older and more “experienced” journalists. Stuff ‘em.

The reaction to Dave’s new job will no doubt centre on criticism of his alleged journalistic sins. But surely the most interesting aspect of his appointment is that rather than going for a veteran, News Limited has put a member of the generation that doesn’t read newspapers in charge of its flagship Australian tabloid. The implications for The Telegraph – and Australian print in general – will be fascinating.

PS: If the by-line “Mercedes Dumptruck” ever appears in TheTele, presume that Andrew Jaspan has had a stroke.

Peter Fray

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