Are Paul Armstrong’s days as controversial editor of the West Australian numbered?
A West insider told Crikey that it’s believed by some that “Kerry Stokes is going to make a move on the paper next month and Armstrong is definitely not a part of his plans, having been given some strong advice from Jack Bendat – his close and very influential friend who doesn’t like Armstrong – to ditch him.”
And Armstrong detractors are actively circulating the rumour that Armstrong was recently in the UK touting his CV around town (although other sources say he went to Margaret River to relax over the Christmas break).
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Perth identity Jack Bendat and Stokes were once business partners, and Bendat has already put his views about the current direction of the paper on the record.
Bendat, who is The West‘s largest private shareholder, with two million shares, told The Australian last year that he loved the paper, but he was critical of its “sensational headlines” and “nasty reporting peppered with negativity.”
“Being the largest private shareholder, I think Kerry will make a difference, at least I hope so,” he told The Oz. “I’d like to see them report things which are factual and not with headlines that have nothing to do with the story.”
A Perth media watcher told Crikey: “The difficulty with the West now is that it’s a conglomeration of companies, if there was to be a takeover by someone like Stokes, it would for the first time in many years revert to a media company that’s owned by an individual who knows media.”
“This would mean an important cultural change,” the media watcher told Crikey. “In a way it diminishes the power of the editor… so far there’s been a separation of powers because the current company just doesn’t care about what goes in the paper, so it’s meant a certain freedom for Armstrong and previous editors.”
Crikey understands that senior reporter Gary Adshead, who resigned at the end of last year to take a job with Channel Seven, is now, according to our source “sniffing around for Armstrong’s job.”
Crikey understands that the same people circulating the Armstrong exit rumour are planning a “FOAD party” in the event that Armstrong is pushed from the paper.
FOAD refers to a not-so-nice message that a staff member wrote on Armstrong’s get well card while he was on sick leave late last year.