It’s hard to remember another example in recent years of two huge
stories happening on the same day. Tonight’s federal budget will be one
of the biggest in history in terms of surpluses and largesse, yet the
media also has to deal with arguably the greatest survival story ever
to occur in Australia.

The whole thing is a no-brainer until 7.30pm tonight when the Treasurer
gets to his feet, so the first major challenge will be for slightly
delayed 7.30 Report – does it stick with a dedicated budget edition or weave in some Beaconsfield coverage as well?

Lateline, Nightline and the like will have a similar wrestle but
then it will get really interesting in tomorrow’s papers. Which story
will be the splash, which gets the liftout and which gets more column
inches?

Anyone wanting to dump some bad news should release it any time this
afternoon because it is absolutely guaranteed to get buried. Macquarie
Bank can be thankful its bizarre Patrick bid and withdrawal won’t
receive nearly the attention it deserves.

Editors who were booked to fly to Canberra for the lock-up this morning
have some very difficult decisions to make because they will be
surrendering their ability to dictate tomorrow’s Beaconsfield coverage
from lunch-time until 7.30pm, by which time it will be too late to
really shape the coverage and they won’t be in the newsroom anyway.
Which story will the editors deem more important to roll up the sleeves
for?

The last major news story clash of this magnitude that I can recall
came in September 2001 when Ansett collapsed a couple of days after the
twin towers were hit.

Of course, there are always clashes between longer running stories such
as election campaign and wars. The East Timor intervention smothered
much of the early coverage of Jeff Kennett’s ill-fated 1999 Victorian
election defeat just as the Beslan siege drowned out the early days of
the 2004 federal election campaign.

Great story clashes of our time, this might make for an interesting list. Send your entries to [email protected].

Peter Fray

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