Fairfax 1: I’m from the Newcastle Herald but Fairfax is out for three days as you well know. As far as their quality commitment goes, I suppose that’s why they’ve punted in-house lawyer Mark Polden and moved the other lawyer, Richard Coleman, on to the BRW or similar, with us told we now have to buy in legal advice. At $200 a throw for every story that would need legalling you can see how that will work on the self censorship line, discouraging us from chasing things that will need legalling because they wont want to f-ck the budget. We’ve done some good things with Richard and Mark in recent years — chasing that shonkey fraudster out of town. Greg Ray was nominated for a Walkley over it and there was no way we could do that without good legal backup, and an in-house defamation lawyer on the side of the paper is going to be a very different thing to an outside legal opinion at 5pm on deadline.

Fairfax 2:. One of the things that upset journos at Rufax Press the most this week was the unbelievably dumb decision to sack the company’s in-house lawyers. No longer will reporters and editors have access to instant, competent and experienced legal advice over stories. It will now cost hundreds of dollars to have stories “legalled”, which means that — under the nickels and dimes McCarthyist regime now in charge — editors will run a million miles from risky stories. You can’t get sued over Hollywood gossip wire stories or trivial neighbourhood yarns. Non-metro papers will be especially hard hit. Outside Sydney its hard to find law firms which don’t have huge conflicts of interest when it comes to stories about regional big-hitters. Not only that, there aren’t many lawyers who know jack-shit about defamation or other crucial branches of media law. This decision will cost money, not save it, and it signals more clearly than most of these idiots’ other dumb decisions that they don’t give a flying f–k about quality journalism.

Fairfax 3. Fairfax this morning sacked Saturday Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton after he refused to scab on the MEAA strike and file for tomorrow’s paper. (Yep. We know.)

Fairfax 4. Michael Gill at the AFR is breaking ranks and his minions are soliciting new software publishing systems to run the AFR layout of its newspaper and websites, an Italian one, at that. They had monitored the botched rollout of the Atex/Cybergraphics system called Genera at The Age, which is four months behind schedule. $20m down the gurgler. Oops. Perhaps they better sack a few staff.

Fairfax 5. You should check out the article “Trade Me founder gets $14m bonus“, printed in the Dominion Post. Interesting to say the least, and no doubt the reason why some of the Fairfax Media work force i.e. 5% is being deleted. Mates rates no. doubt.

Fairfax 6. My frustration continues regarding The Age‘s website. Everyday you have to pick through inaccuracies and old material just to find anything remotely like news.  Today’s case in point:

Apparently the Russian President according to The Age is Vladimir Putin … in reality he is the Russian Prime Minister. The current Russian President is Dmitry Medvedev. Obviously the sub editors have gone on strike earlier than planned.

Fairfax 7. Fairfax has launched a new offer this week to promote the SMH which effectively boils down to the SMH and Sun Herald for free for six months with delivery charge of about $2.50 a week to cover cost of delivery by contractor not the newsagent. It was put to me last night when a guy knocked on my front door. There are two offers — seven days: $69.70 for 26 weeks – save 75 per cent off newstand weekend: $30 for 20 weeks — save 63 per cent off newstand price. I was told the paper was “free” and the charge was to cover the delivery. I assume after six months they will approach me again with another offer or simply roll it over with delivery charge built into price of paper as is the case with current newsagent distribution system.

Fairfax 8:  CEO David Kirk had security guards stationed at his office door in the Fairfax HQ as the group announced its staff cuts.

Fairfax 9: Age executive editor Rod Wiedermann has issued an email instruction to all Age section editors that they are forbiddem to accept freelance work from any past Age staff who have been given redundancies, even though the writers may have already seen out their contracted two-year exclusion from employment periods.

Fairfax 10: In a savvy piece of Geoff Dixon-inspired pre-planning, the Fairfax strike-breakers descending on the Sydney Morning Herald have been sourced from Rural Press regional dailies under the guidance of staunch Bryan McCarthy loyalist and sub-editorial headkicker Barry Potter. Fairfax has been steadily training up selected editors on key software as the MEAA relationship headed south. Expect Rural Press’ law-and-order obsession to start replacing SMH‘s lifestyle fetish forthwith. 

Factions clash:  After weeks of strain between the Victorian Right and NUW, a major shitfight is about to erupt between these now-combined forces and the Kim Carr left here in Melbourne. It’s all over the Right’s attempt to create a new branch in the affluent latte sipping suburb of South Yarra. Last night’s powerful admin committee saw the Left oppose the Right’s attempt to set up the branch, with a vote to activate the branch immediately failing to reach majority. Watch this space.

Army unit p-ssed off: The Australian Army does have Emergency Responders/Firefighters who have the same training as civilian firefighters plus advanced medical training. These guys can cut you out of your crashed/blown up vehicle, fight structural and aviation fires,give your drugs and fluids, deal with any hazmat incidents but……..being under Socom command a very narrow band of operations so very few of their skills are used or available to the wider Army. So most are leaving. 

Wednesday night’s Bradman Dinner consisted of 400 business leaders and sporting greats. MC Hugh Jackman acknowledged the distinguished guests — The Bradman Family … Kate Ellis Minister for Sport … Brian Nelson, Leader of the opposition … Seems Hugh has his finger on home grown politics.

Word around the SA Liberal Party is that Family First is running an open preference ticket in the Mayo by election. This would mean that FFP renegged on deals with both the Libs ands the DLP. No wonder Downer bypassed FFP and ignored the Liberal HTV card. The FFP open ticket is irresponsible in that it is likely to favour the Greens because of thier position on the ticket. One wonders how the Christian Right will look upon Bob Day and FFP if this ever gets a run in the press?

Zionist and former Republican staffer Ted Lapkin has left the office of Victorian opposition leader Ted Baillieu for the more ideologically welcoming office of shadow Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson.

Tasmania has a high level of truancy overall but my daughter who teaches at Bridgewater High assures me that attendance there is less than 50%. The police confirm that there is a high correlation between truancy and petty criminal activity. This might explain the high level of arson in this community.

Fun and games at Cairns airport on Wednesday. In addition to combining Qantas and Jetstar flights bound for Melbourne and Sydney (I’d be none too impressed if I paid Qantas rates and ended up in one of the dilapidated sardine cans Jetstar specialise in) passenegers on the 1105 to sydney were about to board when the information screen advised that the flight had been cancelled. 10 minutes later an announcement was finally made that the plane was “unservicable” passengers were instructed to collect their luggage and await further instruction. One wonders how an unserviceable plane made its was to Cairns in the first place …

Friends arrived in Singapore last night on QF51 from Brisbane one hour and 40 minutes late including sitting on the tarmac for an hour. Pilot (“who never lies”) came on the intercom after take off and said it was a maintenance problem but it was not the fault of the maintenance people but the fault of Qantas management. Passengers were stunned. Hope I’m not dobbing him in.

Peter Fray

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