Magpie crows on Bulletin sacking. The Townsville Magpie — a rather disgruntled ex-staffer of News Limited’s Townsville Bulletin — is crowing about the apparent sacking of the paper’s books editor and “one of the longest serving and most high-profile journalists” in Mary Vernon. He doesn’t hold back on his blog:

“Mary has been the go-to person over a wide variety of matters, can do it all from writing, subbing and page layout (not many can do all that) and she has been a strong and respected mentor for many of the young journalists who have passed through the paper over the years. That is now all lost to Townsville because of one of the least deserved razorings by the small clique of workplace psychopaths appear to be using spite as a guideline for sackings. The ‘Pie wonders if nepotism will be strong enough to save some jobs.”

According to Mr Magpie, Vernon was retrenched last night and given a month’s notice. And he says photographer Darren Hilder and a marketing analyst have also been let go. We contacted the paper’s general manager but didn’t hear back before deadline.

So that’s accountants at Advertiser Newspapers in Adelaide and (we’re still to confirm) prepress operators at the NT News in Darwin that we’ve heard about this week. Seems News Limited’s quiet drive to slice 15-20% of its costs is starting to gear up. What else have you heard? Email us or use our anonymous tips form.

The Oz relaunches media coverage. The Australian will relaunch its media sub-site today. The new page, which Crikey stumbled across this morning, features all the paper’s news, opinion and blogs on media issues along with a new weekly e-mail newsletter — First Draft. Our newsroom insider says the website is being overhauled (the business pages were spruced up recently) ahead of the The Oz locking its content to subscribers in November — the first News Limited paper to bring down a pay wall ahead of the tabloids next year.

Absence extended for department head. Just where overseas, asks staff at Victoria’s Department of Transport, is UK anarchist turned privatisation tsar Jim Betts? The “urbane leather-clad” departmental chief, as our insider described him, recently announced he was heading off for some much deserved R&R. “Courage, mon Braves — I’ll only be gone for three weeks,” Jim reassured staff. But: “Three weeks became four and has just been extended again to five.” Our spy has their own theories on the extended absence. We asked the department and a spokesperson said they won’t comment on personal leave matters but simply “the information is wrong”. Others say Jim might be about to head back to Blighty for good.

Asia lost in translation (cont). Some good feedback on our tip yesterday of the need for more Asian language study in schools. And it seems there’s certainly little encouragement for students to take it on. An anonymous Crikey reader reported from South Australia: “With the new SA Certificate of Education introduced this year students only have to do four subjects plus a research project, rather than five subjects previously required. Language courses, along with subjects such as geography, have suffered huge drops in enrolments and many schools have dropped unviable language options.”

Meanwhile, Simon Harch wrote in comments:

“Two years ago our family returned home after a three-year stint in Shanghai. Our four-year-old daughter was fully bilingual. We have found next to no government support within the education system for her to continue with Chinese. With neither parent fluent in Chinese, we’re having to pay for private tuition and a weekend Chinese community school. The local primary school (like many Queensland schools) does have a LOTE program, but it only starts in year five for an hour per week. I can’t understand how anyone thinks it is realistic to learn an Asian language with only an hour per week. As for not providing any language tuition at all until year five, I guess my daughter can look forward to learning how to say “Ni hao” (hello) in four years time. If we really want our kids to be prepared for the ‘Asian Century’, we need to give more than lip service to language education.”

Bean-mite far from the shelves. So is Heinz launching cans of Vegemite-flavoured baked beans or not? That was the word yesterday, but the company is neither confirming or denying. We salivate in anticipation of an announcement.

Tourism operator goes under? Also from the 3AW Rumour File this morning, which is the tourism operator set to fold in the next few days?