Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden has rarely copped a towelling like he got on Media Watch this week and it is a little surprising that no other outlet, including The Australian’s Media section, has yet cottoned on to this fascinating example of media power.

The Herald Sun,
like any other serious journalistic enterprise, relies on people
answering questions that are put to them, yet when it came to answering
Media Watch‘s detailed and well-researched questions, Blunden was left wanting and replied only with vitriol (as you can see here).

The full exchange is quite illuminating about what is being alleged here. It looks like Blunden and his Herald Sun
colleagues are more than willing to both threaten and actually follow
through with negative coverage against anyone who does a commercial
deal with The Age.

As we’ve reported many times, Blunden
also breathes fire and makes threats of adverse consequences to anyone
who dares to give The Age a scoop.

Crikey has even heard that a small operation called Sorrento Ferries was subject to harassment by the Herald Sun after doing a deal with The Age. It seemsthe abuse of market power by Australia’s biggest selling paper is quite widespread.

There’s another lovely irony in all of this. The Age
executive who has been swanning around town doing all these generous
circulation deals with Telstra Dome and its resident AFL clubs –
Essendon, St Kilda and Carlton – is none other than Anthony Catalano,
the former Sun News Pictorial police reporter who has been subjected to several negative Herald Sun articles over the years.

Blunden never misses an opportunity to kick The Age, as his attacks on Catalano demonstrate, yet when The Age
reported the tabloid editor’s drink driving conviction in 2003, he
declared one of his irrational jihads on then editor Michael Gawenda,
even though it was a perfectly legitimate story.

The Age’s
current editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan is said to enjoy email
correspondence with Blunden, who then laughs at him with his underlings
at news conference. Maybe it’s time Melbourne’s polite broadsheet
finally took the gloves off after years of abuse. A formal complaint to
the ACCC about the Herald’s Sun inducements to Carlton to break its contract would be an obvious start.

Somehow, I can’t see Fairfax chairman Ron Walker, an old Herald Sun favourite, signing off on such a strategy, even though it is clearly in TheAge’s
interest because the publicity would damage News Ltd and Blunden’s
bullying tactics would almost certainly be curtailed in the future.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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