You have to chalk it down as David Penberthy’s first success as editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph , a front page splash on the election of the new Pope, Benedict XVI. The news came so late – 3am – that the printed paper actually scooped the website which had the earlier version with a story on some of the dopes arrested in Bali on Sunday night. That story was pushed back to Page 5 in the special 3am edition.

The Tele’s front page had a big picture of the new Pope with the headline “New Pope” and a small sub-head “Benedict XVI to lead world’s Catholics.” There was a “3am Newsflash” strapline and the story was written by that old News Ltd pro, Bruce Wilson. But there was no dateline. Could the story have been done in London?

Then on Pages 8 and 9 The Tele had more reports under the headline “Smoke signals a new Pope is chosen,” with a picture of the white smoke issuing forth from the stack on top of the Sistine Chapel and a picture of the crowd reaction. All of which rubs in nature of the paper’s scoop. Not an exclusive story just old fashioned planning. Even the Adelaide Advertiser, with a half hour advantage in deadline, missed the story. (Though being a monopoly they can afford to be a little slower than the rest.) Likewise The Courier Mailin Brisbane which went big on local angles to the Bali drug story.

In contrast The Sydney Snoring Herald had a small page one story below the fold about the failed third ballot, while The Australian buried the story back on Page 10 under “First wisps send the wrong signals”, the paper preferring to lead on the free trade agreement with China that John Howard now wants us to sign.

This is obviously the gospel according to St Rupert who is now gung-ho about China, but also worried about poor relations between that country and Japan (Rupe’s not big in Japan).After spending two weeks in China the message has gone out to the empire, China is the go. Thankfully it didn’t stop The Tele showing some good old fashioned journalistic aggression.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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