Last week Crikey reported on the media battle being fought out in Brisbane (August 16, item 18) between The Courier-Mail and The Australian, with the state election the latest battleground.

The Oz has pinched a serious number of senior staff from the Bowen Hills word factory, and has been using them to good effect in the election as part of a pitch to traditional Courier readers, unhappy with that paper’s recent move to tabloid.

Veteran political reporter Tony Koch, who jumped ship from the Courier not too long after Fagan took over as editor, has set the election campaign agenda a couple of times now, and is likely to have an impact with today’s yarn about conflict-of-interest problems for accident-prone Liberal leader Bruce Flegg.

Despite all of that, Fagan remains “very happy” with the efforts of his troops, or at least that is what he told staff in email they all received on Wednesday. Thanks to a staffer who was thoughtful enough to pass it on to Crikey, you can read it below:

I’m very happy with our state election coverage and am underwhelmed at the way The Australian uses its columns to try to undermine our efforts. This doesn’t matter to the 85 percent of our readers who don’t see The Australian but I know all of our journalists do and I’m happy to stand up for you and the paper.

The item in Strewth this morning was just silly. Both The Australian and The Courier-Mail make editorial judgments all the time on whether to follow each other’s stories. They spent a lot of last year playing down the seriousness of Dr Patel. Last week, we gave only scant follow to a story they were excited about. Strewth’s writers portray this today as indicating we are not serious about election coverage.

For your information, I attach a letter to the editor of The Australian
which I hope will be published but, as always, that’s a decision for the editor.

Here’s Fagan’s as-yet-unpublished letter to the editor:

Your newspaper is misrepresenting both itself and The Courier-Mail in its commentary about coverage of the Queensland election. On Saturday you claimed on page one to have Queensland’s most comprehensive election coverage. You didn’t. The Courier-Mail did in quality and quantity.  The Strewth column yesterday claims our decision to run just a few paragraphs following your story about the payment of allowances to retiring MPs somehow indicates we don’t take the election seriously. We do. We saw no reason to work up a lather about a situation that was occurring for the eighth consecutive state election — even if you did.
We’re interested in new stories. That’s why we’ve led the way on reporting on the issues of water and health that dominate this campaign. And that’s why we were able to nominate the date of the poll and the day it would be called 10 days beforehand.  Last Tuesday when the election was called, your newspaper was still reporting that it was likely to be delayed. Glass houses are dangerous places, indeed, in which to be throwing stones.