The
past few days has provided another case study in the different
approaches to editorial independence between News Ltd and Fairfax.
Simply turning up at the News Corp AGM in New York triggered
predictably one-sided coverage in News Ltd papers, with barely a
mention of what actually happened at the meeting.

Crikey is
considered dangerous to mention by most News Ltd papers in Australia
because the sycophantic editors wouldn’t want to upset the boss by
giving anything more than a passing reference to the lively debate in
the historic Hudson Theatre on Friday morning. We all know that Rupert
Murdoch is a control freak and nothing demonstrates the point better
than the editorial subservience he demands.

The contrast with
Fairfax is stark indeed, when you consider that I’m actually running
for the company’s board at the AGM on November 18, a far bigger issue
than merely being a shareholder asking questions from the floor.

Rather
than Fairfax reporters and editors deciding to ban Crikey so they don’t
upset their chairman Ron Walker, who is not happy about facing a
contested election, if anything the opposite has happened.

Fairfax’s New York correspondent Mark Coultan produced this piece for The Age and The SMH yesterday and both papers (SMH today, Age tomorrow) are also carrying a Money
section cover story by Crikey on how to be an effective shareholder
during the current AGM season. I also spoke at a recent Fairfax seminar
in Melbourne on “how to keep your fund manager honest.”

Can you imagine The Bulletin or The Australian
commissioning a 2000 word piece on shareholder agitation from someone
who was running for the board of PBL or News Corp? It just wouldn’t
happen and this is precisely why Fairfax shouldn’t be swallowed by one
of the big boys if Australia’s cross-media ownership laws are ever
repealed.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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