Why were The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age
so restrained in their story last weekend about gym manager Julie
Trethowan, who was coyly described as the late Kerry Packer’s “friend”?

The Age played the story down on the side of page one and The Sydney Morning Herald
placed it modestly in the page one basement. Neither paper ran their
snatched pic of Trethowan at her home on the front page – in stark
contrast to the treatment both papers meted out in 2000 when news
emerged that Richard Pratt, another Australian billionaire, had been
keeping a mistress, Shari-lea Hitchcock. Both the SMH and The Age splashed Ben Hills’s Pratt-Hitchcock story and large photos across their front pages.

Kate
McClymont, the investigative reporter who wrote Saturday’s piece, was
fully aware of Trethowan’s involvement with Packer – something widely
known in media circles. It’s not known whether Fairfax’s chairman and
Liberal Party heavyweight Ron Walker played a role in the tentative way
the papers handled the revelations of the $10 million left to the
Packer “friend.”

Sources in the SMH newsroom tell us
there was some angst on Friday afternoon about how the story would be
run to avoid a legal run-in with Australia’s most powerful family.

McClymont was on leave and could not be contacted, but Crikey emailed SMH
editor Alan Oakley to find out if the paper faced legal issues in terms
of how Trethowan’s relationship with the late Mr Packer was described.

His
answer was a blunt yes, though he said there were no difficulties arriving
at the decision to describe Trethowan as a Packer “friend.” And he
denied discussing how the story would be handled with Age
editor Andrew Jaspan, even though they both took a remarkably similar
tack. Jaspan hasn’t responded to similar questions emailed to him.

Meanwhile,
separate sources have confirmed the closeness of Packer’s relationship
with Trethowan and that the media mogul had been at her
temporary Darling Point residence on Christmas Eve. Her regular pad at
the Toft Monks block in Elizabeth Bay, which Packer used when he wanted
to get away from it all, was being renovated.

It’s understood
that Packer returned to his Bellevue Hill mansion, Cairnton, the
following day when his condition began to deteriorate. Son James was
summonsed to return home from the Maldives while wife Ros was forced to
cancel a family Christmas lunch when the gravity of Packer’s health
became known.