Progress report on the industrial negotiations at Fairfax — zilch. The phoney war continues with weird things going on. It’s hard to say whether its brilliant (if obscure) strategy on the part of the company, or management making it up as they go along.

A while ago the company said it wanted to put to a secret ballot of editorial staff its proposal to take high-paid journalists out of collective bargaining and leave them to negotiate their own pay packages. Divide and rule. They asked the union to back the ballot, but this offer was declined, since the union would obviously campaign for a “no” vote. This week Fairfax staff across the east coast voted unanimously in favour of a “Vote No” campaign if the ballot goes ahead. (The Canberra Times was due to vote this morning.) Even allowing for the peer pressure involved in any public show of hands, it is unlikely management can win the vote. Therefore they probably won’t do it.

So what’s the point of it all? The union is beginning to think that in reality management is simply withdrawing from negotiations without admitting that is what it is doing.

Meanwhile the pay offer management has put on the table is actually quite reasonable — the sticking point is the desire to exclude journos earning more than $100,000, together with other eminently negotiable matters (one would have thought) such as the coverage of Fairfax Digital staff and redundancy opportunities.

And while all this bullsh-t goes on, rumours continue to fly around about preparation for lock-outs and Fairfax’s New Zealand management being warned to be prepared to fly out at short notice to put the paper out. Both management and union accuse each other of putting these rumours about as a tactical move. And, strange though it is, they may both be right. — Margaret Simons

This just in. ABC journalist Peter Lloyd has been arrested in Singapore on drugs charges, and could face serious punishment if convicted. The 41-year-old ABC journalist will face court in Singapore today, and is one of six people who have been arrested following a drug sting in the country. The Walkely Award-nominated reporter is accused of supplying a Singapore man with methamphetamine, and is currently speaking with the Australian High Commission. According to Fairfax back in June, Lloyd was set to host the new program Breakfast News with Virginia Trioli on ABC2.  

Sign of the horns. The Crikey bunker couldn’t help but notice that today’s Herald Sun featured in its World Youth Day coverage a photo of a young pilgrim implementing the “signs of the horns” — described by Wikipedia as “a hand gesture with a vulgar meaning in Mediterranean countries and a variety of meanings and uses in other cultures. Its origins can be traced to Ancient Greece. It is realised by extending the index and little fingers while holding the middle and ring fingers down with the thumb.” But interestingly Wikipedia also reveals that “Anton LaVey popularized it as a Satanic salute in the 1960s. His image was often in the press, and the sign appears on many of his photos, such as on the back of the Satanic Bible.” So what is that young pilgrim thinking?

We think he’s probably just a fan of Judas Priest … which the Pope probably doesn’t approve of anyway…

Not pavlova: After last night’s live Q & A, the term ‘pavlovian response’ may forever haunt Young Laborite Rose Jackson. Watch here

Footy Show still showing signs of life. Bringing Sam Newman back to the AFL Footy Show has not paid off for Nine: the program’s Melbourne audience sank again last night to 378,000, one of the lowest figures this year. That compares to 400,000 the previous week. It has now fallen from 454,000 average in Melbourne when Newman came back last month to last night. The audience is now where it was when Newman was “rested” for counselling after a noisy seven weeks of fighting with female viewers and female members of AFL board and female AFL media. The AFL Footy Show audiences in Adelaide (98,000) and Perth (104,000) were also low compared to recent weeks. The NRL program in Sydney and Brisbane also had a very poor night with a stunt that involved an all female audience in the Nine studios in Sydney for the program. The tokenism of the move didn’t appeal to viewers and the audience fell to 180,000 in Sydney, one of the lowest of the 2008 season so far and just 92,000 in Brisbane. Nationally the Footy Shows combined audience averaged 852,000, down from 906,000 the previous week. It was weak in Sydney and Brisbane, but was the third highest audience in Melbourne and won the timeslot there. — Glenn Dyer

Pratt and the AJN. Following on from Greg Barns article yesterday in respect of the Dick Pratt vs Graeme Samuel, the Jewish organization which appears to be running the most pro Pratt agenda is the local Jewish community newspaper the Australian Jewish News (AJN). The national editor was all over the article in The Australian on Wednesday and whilst most of the mainstream press have been scathing of Pratt, the AJN put out this quite unbelievable editorial a few weeks ago. What isn’t so well known,is that there are a number of people in the Jewish community privately commenting on the fact that the AJN have yet to declare their own conflict of interest in this whole story. Firstly, one of it’s former proprietors was Richard Pratt himself and secondly, it’s former editor and chief from 1987 to 1998 and now CEO of the Pratt foundation is Sam Lipski. Lipski still has a once a month op-ed piece with the AJN . In keeping with the papers current slant on the issue, maybe the AJN could ask Sam in his next piece to give his views on Richard… Did this conflict effect their editorial judgment? Well, it’s hard to know but the disclosure should have been made. It should also be noted that the former president of the Jewish National Fund Graeme Samuel was just re-elected by eight state Labor governments and one federal Labor government to one of the most important public service jobs in the country and the weekly AJN section “Jews in the News” which would usually mention this type of accomplishment conveniently forgot about it this week. It’s about time this niche paper followed the same ethical standards that the mainstream press face! — Frank Newhouse

Coren on her way out.  Anna Coren is looking to eject from the Today Tonight hot seat to pursue a career overseas. Disappointed by a series of events that have made her the headline – most notably the Mercedes Corby defamation case and her producer boyfriend Andrew Bourke’s departure from TT – Coren is screen-testing for roles at the Atlanta headquarters of US news network CNN. It is understood the Today Tonight host is seeking a position in Asia, and has been seen in the CNN studios signing off her news reports with the phrase “Anna Coren, Hong Kong”. Channel 7 refused to comment on Coren’s international research project yesterday, but the network is aware of her desire to broaden her horizons..
Coren, who will be back on air on Monday, has just over six months left in her contract with Seven. Bourke’s exit from Today Tonight following the recent ill-fated Corby case – rumoured to have cost Seven $5 million – is believed to have stretched Coren’s relationship with network heads. —

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Peter Fray
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