Heaven forbid, is the sleeping giant awakening? After years of relentless editorial pummeling from News Ltd, the Fairfax empire is showing signs of striking back.

The AFR on Saturday produced an item in its anonymous column “The Prince” which hopped into The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell over his foolish decision to invite Kevin Rudd to be godfather of his son, Riley.

The Age today celebrated the departure of Peter Blunden from the editor’s chair at the Herald Sun with this Matthew Ricketson column in its business section headlined, “All shook up at the Herald Sun“.

Since the departure of firebrand Daily Telegraph editor Col Allan to New York in 2000, Blunden and Mitchell have established themselves as ferociously combative editors when it comes to editorialising about the opposition.

With Blunden now kicked upstairs into management, Chris Mitchell will find himself running a lone hand in terms of blatantly and gratuitously beating up on News Ltd’s media opposition through The Australian’s daily Strewth column and the Media section each Thursday.

This would be fine if he hadn’t so blatantly compromised himself with the Rudd godfather decision and bungled half-baked disclosure after his wife, Christine Jackman, produced that glowing magazine cover story.

Mitchell’s editorial in The Weekend Australian read like a classic “I’d better prove my ability to attack the godfather”, but the real test will be whether he can put the heat on over Therese Rein’s massive conflict of interest.

The Australian has indeed covered the story of Rein’s booming business in the past, but it is yet to take a position on whether it would be appropriate for the wife of a Prime Minister to receive many millions in taxpayer handouts. Piers Akerman pointed out on the ABC’s Insiders that the government won’t touch the story with a barge pole, so it will be up to the media to make the running.

Over to you, Chris. It’s time to really prove your independence on this matter.

Peter Fray

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