If you’re an editor who has some awkward news about to break elsewhere, more often than not the best option is to spin it positively first in your own publication.

And so it was with The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell in today’s Strewth column when the following appeared:

The Ruddfather

Asked by the Crikey news site whether he was Kevin Rudd‘s godson, The Australian‘s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell provided an unarguable answer. “That would be unlikely,” Mitchell replied with some asperity, “since I am older than Kevin”.

It is true, though, that Rudd has been the godfather of Mitchell’s 20-month-old son Riley for a year – a connection born of the small world of Queensland politics and journalism.

Mitchell’s wife, journalist Christine Jackman, wrote the profile of Rudd published in last weekend’s The Australian Magazine. The piece was rushed into print, with the disclosure running in the newspaper rather than the magazine itself.

The “disclosure” about the connection between Rudd and Jackman/Mitchell turns out to be these words accompanying Jackman’s article on page 4 of The Weekend Australian: “The reporter and her family have known the Rudd family since before Mr Rudd entered politics.”

Crikey first broke the story of Mitchell leaving his partner of 20 years, The Australian’s magazine feature writer Deborah Cassrels, and taking up with younger reporter Christine Jackman in September 2004. In January 2005, we broke the story that they were engaged and expecting, just as a storm was erupting about a Christine Jackman feature on Mark Latham.

So why on earth would such a couple select Kevin Rudd as godfather? The Australian is now severely compromised — ever further compromised by Mitchell selecting his wife to write a glowing magazine profile of the godfather of their child.

The Murdoch empire has long sidled up to favoured politicians — but this is ridiculous. Given Sir Rod Eddington’s loving embrace of Kevin Rudd — the former Ansett and British Airways chief is a powerful independent director on the News Corp board — are we seeing one of those famous Murdoch political switches?

Most editors and publishers would never publish anything remotely critical about someone who was godfather to their child, yet Mitchell and Jackman have placed themselves into such a position.

Then again, Rupert Murdoch has reportedly come to an informal arrangement with Tony Blair about a lucrative book deal on his memoirs, so nothing should surprise when it comes to the Sun King and politicians.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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