What on earth is going on at The Australian Financial Review? The nation’s financial daily completely missed yesterday’s 9% correction on the Shanghai market, which has triggered a global tremor in equity markets.

Australia awoke to news that Wall Street was crunched by 3.5% overnight and readers of The AFR were presented with a markets section that included a story on the prospects of Domino’s Pizza — but didn’t carry a word on the Chinese correction.

Whilst most of the Australian papers overlooked it, at least The Australian produced a page lead noting that $135 billion was wiped off Chinese stocks yesterday.

The fall happened perfectly for the Australian time zone. Whoever was entering the data for the international markets table on page 47 of The AFR last night should have twigged that this was a huge story (see right).

This is how The Wall Street Journal covered the story online shortly after the Chinese markets had closed:

Shanghai’s 8.8% tumble slams emerging markets

China’s benchmark stock index was jolted by its biggest drop in a decade, leading a global swoon in markets. The declines came despite little news suggesting any ill health in the global economy.

The 8.8% drop yesterday in China’s Shanghai Composite Index follows a massive run-up in Chinese share prices since mid-2005 that has continued in recent weeks. Despite its size, the plunge only erased gains accumulated over the previous six trading days.

The AFR’s huge miss in its newspaper edition only serves to highlight the folly of its internet strategy. Whilst the journalism-free AFR Access concept is in the process of being abandoned for a revitalised AFR.com, visitors to the site this morning see headlines about the market correction but the content is still all locked up. AFR even emailed me about it today, but once again the stories were unavailable.

The AFR’s bizarre isolationist stance has now even extended to them withdrawing their data base of material from the global Factiva service which features venerable publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times.

Letters are flying around ministerial offices, major business groups, Fairfax management and wire services in an attempt to circumvent this folly which is scheduled to take effect on March 31.

When will Fairfax CEO David Kirk finally step in and remedy this debacle  masterminded by Fairfax Business Media chief Michael Gill?

Peter Fray

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