The simmering feud between News Ltd
and Fairfax over Iraq war coverage has burst into all-out combat, with
News launching a concerted attack against Fairfax’s top foreign
correspondent Paul McGeough. Two well-connected News press gallery
heavyweights, Patrick Walters and Ian McPhedran, are leading the

The Australian yesterday ran on the front page Walters’ report
casting doubt on McGeough’s account of a bungled earlier raid to free
Douglas Wood: Wood raid report a furphy.
News tabloids also ran McPhedran’s story throwing cold water on
McGeough’s contentious report last year that Iraq PM Allawi executed
seven prisoners in a jail: Lie tests clear Allawi.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bolt had this rant attacking McGeough’s “naievete” in quoting Australia’s mufti, Sheik Taj el-Din el-Hilaly: Sheik meets sucker.

was a chorus of criticism against the award-winning journalist whose
reporting has also challenged some of the federal government’s key
policies in Iraq. The feud dates back to the awarding of a Walkley to
McGeough for his coverage of Iraq – ahead of News correspondent Peter
Wilson, who was captured in action during his derring-do war

We felt yesterday’s attacks demanded a response from the Herald. We emailed SMH editor Robert Whitehead asking him:

  • Does The Herald believe News is engaging in a coordinated
    assault against McGeough? Apart from commercial considerations, are you
    concerned this appears also to be politically driven?
  • Do you stand by McGeough’s reporting from Iraq, particularly
    Saturday’s story on the botched raid for Douglas Wood, and the Alawi
    executions story – both of which were rejected by Alexander Downer?

He replied: “The Sydney Morning Herald stands by the two
stories mentioned and, indeed, all Paul McGeough’s reporting from Iraq.
We look forward to the federal government releasing any information it
has on the Allawi matter.

The Herald’s witnesses cited
in the original Allawi story were located independently and interviewed
without each other’s knowledge. We also note that in a story in The New Yorker
magazine titled ‘A man of the shadows,’ writer Jon Lee Anderson
discloses that he was present when McGeough interviewed one of the

So far, Whitehead is being diplomatic. It will be
interesting to see if the government comes up with any on-the-record
fresh information on both contentious stories. But News Ltd’s ruthless
attitude to its prominent rival has been laid bare by yesterday’s
attacks. Coordinated – or coincidental – the fusillade of criticism
looks certain to turn ugly.