Here’s a look at life onboard one of News Ltd’s fastest sinking ships, the
once grand old Courier-Mail. The latest development has been another long
term staffer resigning after becoming frustrated with management.

This time
the rat is Malcolm Cole, a tradesmanlike but unspectacular reporter who had been
the paper’s chief political reporter following the departure of several more
experienced staff.

Cole has left to work for Santo Santoro – something not
surprising to some given he has family connections to the Liberal Party. It
was understood he had his frustrations with editor David Fagan who would apparently peruse
Hansard and then demand he follow a particular line on a story but perhaps
Cole’s greatest frustration, and that of other political journalists, was with the
former chief of staff and longtime Fagan supporter Kim Sweetman who once famously
briefed a conference on a state election by profiling federal seats.

The C-M has now lost two political reporters after the paper’s number three
political writer, young Emma Chalmers, was given the surprise gig of a News Ltd
exchange with the News Ltd papers in London. The move came as a total kick in the guts to a number of Brisbane News Ltd
reporters who had applied, were vastly more senior and had the reputation of
breaking stories.

Sadly it’s a sign of how far things are starting to slip at
the daily beast of Brisbane. Fagan appears to have further lost the plot by
announcing that the CM building which houses the Sunday Mail was soon to undergo
a multi-million dollar reworking which would end up with an inhouse gym –
something which management hopes would turn around the flagging morale.

Staff have been left scratching their heads at news of the
expenditure. They are wondering when management will put the money
towards employing more staff. They have already been left stunned at
how Fagan managed to massage $10 million out of News Ltd to launch a
glossy new Saturday magazine which was supposed to improve circulation
but has hardly been a success given circulation fell at least three per
cent during and after it’s launch.

An interesting cast of journalists was called in to edit the magazine, many
nearly all without magazine experience but the biggest omission appeared to be
the lack of full time involvement by highly experienced writers like Jamie
Walker who is only a sometime contributer, Graham Lloyd former CM features
editor and Hedley Thomas– a triple Walkley award winner.

Thomas who had initially been mooted as editor of such a magazine under
Mitchell was never asked for imput despite having significant experience but
then again he and Fagan fell out over a book Fagan’s wife Madonna was due to
write on the Dr Death story.

Madonna dropped the project after Thomas protested about her contacting his
sources and Thomas is now writing the definitive account. Then there is the
whole move tabloid which again many fear will never succeed unless management
addresses the key problem which troubled the courier-mail after Fagan arrived –
poor content driven by poor management at editor and middle management level and
the departure of many experienced staff.

Staff just don’t know what rabbit
Fagan is going to try and pull out of a hat next. Nearly all believe the only
solution is for him to be replaced with a new,ethusiastic, talented and
energetic editor – one who will not be bedevilled with constant conflict of
interest issues involving wife Madonna (new ABC morning show host) and also
without ties to the less than spectacular Fagan management team.

Many eyes are looking over at the tabloid Sunday Mail where Sunday Mail
editor Mike Prain has consistently presided over circulation increases but then
there’s also former Daily Telegraph editor Campbell Reid waiting in the wings.

Peter Fray

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