In a major revenge raid, The AFR has poached The Australian’s recently deposed business editor Andrew White to edit its Rear Window gossip column. White was business editor for the past two years and was supposed to spearhead the paper’s web attack as online business editor, when Andrew Main was brought in from The AFR to be his replacement.

But it gets worse for The Australian. Ingrid Mansell, who was brought back from The Times on a promise to be the next business editor, has also landed at The AFR as a senior companies reporter. Mansell walked out abruptly last month after editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell reneged on his promise and tried to make her Main’s deputy.

For all the talk of The Australian poaching The AFR’s heavy hitters such as John Durie, the wash-up sees Rupert’s flagship losing what was meant to be its business editing desk to its bitter rival. Not a good look when you’re trying to buy The Wall Street Journal.

Whilst poor old Rupert has not been enjoying all the recent attacks on his shoddy editorial record, somebody should alert the Bancroft family to today’s Media section of The Australian. It’s another classic example of reporting designed to further the company’s commercial interests, rather than report news on its merits.

White resigned yesterday morning and the newsroom was buzzing with the news at lunch time. So why didn’t this major defection make it into Amanda Meade’s Diary column?

Instead, Meade served up no less than three blatantly self-serving items for News Ltd: congratulations to colleague Bryan Frith for 50 years of business columns, a shot at The Age for attempting to poach a couple of Herald Sun soccer columnists as part of a sponsorship deal with Melbourne Victory and another shot at Fairfax’s Brisbane Times website for a story about Brazilian waxes.

The one counter-balance was running a spray from Telstra’s Phil Burgess ripping into various business commentators, including News Ltd’s Terry McCrann, John Durie and Michael Sainsbury.

So why wouldn’t you break the story about Andrew White’s defection? It would have been a media scoop and was definitely news, especially given the way The Australian has been excessively trumpeting John Durie’s defection, claiming that “Chanticleer joins The Oz“.

Er no, Chanticleer remains the prestigious back page column in The AFR, now written by Alan Jury. John Durie is now just one of half a dozen former Chanticleer columnists.

Meanwhile, The Australian still can’t even get the value of News Corporation right. Saturday’s paper claimed it is capitalised at $133.58 billion, whilst BHP-Billiton trailed behind at $117.56 billion. The real figures are just $66 billion for News – now even behind CBA and NAB — whilst BHP-Billiton today hit a staggering $207 billion after its shares rose another 13c to a record $36.53.

How wrong can you get? Only $157 billion in relative values, it seems.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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