Media buyer Harold Mitchell has made a career and a fortune out of swimming with big advertisers and media moguls, so it was interesting that he declared Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden to be the most powerful editor in the country when chatting to Virginia Trioli on 702 ABC Sydney last week.

The Australian‘s media gossip column dropped a couple of names who attended Blunden’s 10th anniversary dinner two Fridays back, but it wasn’t until the fluff of Lillian Frank’s Easter Saturday column in The Hun that we saw a fuller list of those who came to pay homage under the fetching headline, “Salute to the chief”:

I’ve notched up a few parties in my time, but Peter’s, at the RACV, had a guest list an old charity hand such as myself would kill for. Luminaries included Prime Minister John Howard, Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, Premier Steve Bracks, opposition leader Robert Doyle, Lord Mayor John So, Police Commissioner Christine Nixon, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Janet and John Calvert-Jones, Tina Clarke, Jeff and Felicity Kennett, Peter’s mother Patricia, and his daughter Kirsty, son Chris, Anna Brodie and her son Marcus and daughter Amanda, Eddie and Carla McGuire, AFL chairman Ron Evans, Tony Peek and Tony Beddison. Phew!

Lillian spared us the detail that Anna Brodie is Blunden’s secretary-turned-partner but she deserves a bonus for extracting the following out of the PM in the early hours of Saturday morning:

Peter is most admired for his tenacity, courage and fairness. He knows what people want to know about their city and he gives it to them, and that’s why the Herald Sun is such a good newspaper.

That’s quite an interesting study in power and ego. Clearly, both the Murdoch empire and Blunden himself are keen to make a statement about who calls the shots in Melbourne, but all those politicians were not there because the 30-year Murdoch loyalist and son of a Sydney cop is a great guy.

Blunden is well known for being Australia’s most ruthless editor when it comes to criticism or scoops. If you dare co-operate with The Age or criticise his paper, expect to be banned.

Indeed, Carlton President Ian Collins has just experienced the full force of Hurricane Blunden after he struck a membership circulation deal with The Age.

It appears that some heavy arm-twisting went on and Collins got rolled by his own board so The Age deal was scrapped and it was only a few weeks later that “Collo” resigned, a story gleefully reported on the Herald Sun‘s back page last Friday which included the following:

Some of his (Collo’s) clout at board level was eroded last month when club directors overturned his decision to enter into a commercial agreement with The Age newspaper.

The sub-text of all this is pretty clear: don’t mess with the editor of Australia’s biggest selling newspaper because he wields a lot of power and is more than happy to use it against you.

Disclosure: I’m one of the many people or institutions who’ve been blackballed by Blunden, although my six-year ban is longer than most and dates back to criticisms of the paper for being too soft on Jeff Kennett during the 1999 state election campaign.

Peter Fray

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