Warfare between high-profile Herald hacks Paul Sheehan and Ben Hills over the bizarre ‘Unique Water’ story continues to bubble, despite attempts by SMH
editor Robert Whitehead to put a lid on the brouhaha. Whitehead has
threatened hacks who leak with the sack. But that hasn’t stopped ever
more curious rumours from circulating.

Could it be true that the embattled Sheehan has considered filing a
workers’ compensation claim for harassment against Hills for his
allegedly aggressive questioning of him over the issue? We emailed
Sheehan on Friday putting the rumour to him. After getting no reply, we
called him yesterday, leaving a message on his voicemail. But so far no
response. Similarly, Hills has not responded to our email.

What we do know is that following Crikey’s spotlighting of the issue,
and barely 48 hours after Liz Jackson’s Media Watch follow-up last week
(here), Whitehead called a staff meeting “to launch Fairfax’s new anti-harassment policy and provide an update on the SMH ethics policy.”

Startled staffers were heard speculating about whether ethics and
miracle water mixed? Some even wondered whether they would get a
sensible response from Whitehead to the accusation that he is
effectively gagging Hills – not to mention indulging in hypocrisy in
trying to muzzle his reporters.

But Whitehead didn’t mention the topic in his address to staff – and
none of the assembled hacks was game to raise it. It seems that fear
rules at Herald HQ.

Peter Fray

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