News Limited editors are at war – with each other – over their exclusive rights to publish extracts from The Latham Diaries.

Co-operation between the Murdoch editors over the company’s $80,000
Latham serialisation deal has collapsed in a frenzy of recrimination
and bitterness, with individual papers abandoning the original
conditions of the deal in a free-for-all which has seen the juiciest
parts of the Latham book, and his own comments, published today – five
days earlier than agreed.

Crikey understands this unseemly conduct by the editors of The Australian, Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun
and other News Ltd papers was triggered by a decision to pre-record
Latham’s only major TV interview, with the ABC’s Andrew Denton,
yesterday – three days before their serialisation was due to be
published.

Fearing a competitor would slip into the Denton interview and beat News
Limited to the punch, the editors decided all bets were off and rushed
into print, even though MUP assured News that nothing from the Denton
interview would leak.

Under the News Limited deal with Latham’s publisher, Melbourne University Press, the first 4000-word extract was scheduled for The Weekend Australian magazine
on Saturday, followed by more extracts in News’s Sunday tabloids,
followed on Monday with interviews with Latham conducted by Michael
Harvey (for the tabloids) and Paul Kelly (for The Australian).

Yesterday, however, The Australian published a Paul
Kelly opinion piece based on his Latham interview – which riled the
tabloid editors. Then came the Denton interview, which prompted The Australian to lead its front page this morning with “Beazley Indecent: Latham,” the Telegraph with “Latham Diary of Hatred,” the Advertiser with “Beazley Lets Fly” and so on across the country.

Amid all this unseemly conduct by editors over a book filled with bile
and hate, one other question occurs: where does Paul Kelly stand? After
all, Kelly is not only The Australian’s luminary columnist, he’s also a director of … Melbourne University Press.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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