An amusing exchange between upstanding News Limited Sunday tabloid scribe Samantha Maiden and her bitter Sunday Age rival Michael Bachelard on Twitter yesterday over Maiden’s pick-up of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Saturday scoop detailing federal cabinet leaks. “Clever lead in Sunday Telegraph,” Bachelard wrote. “A whole story based on a Fairfax yarn without ever once mentioning it. Or have I got wrong end of stick?”

The plucky Maiden fired back, claiming her yarn did namecheck The SMH and that Bachelard had a “reading comprehension issue”. Amusingly, she then accused Bachelard of plagiarising Crikey’s recent scoop on Sophie Mirabella’s dispute with the children of her deceased former lover.

The source of the confusion was probably the hard copy edition of the Sunday Herald Sun, which published Maiden’s story on its front page. In that version, the noun “Sydney Morning Herald” had mysteriously morphed into “a Sydney newspaper” (the hard copy edition Sunday Tele went one better, omitting any reference to the newspaper at all). Maiden had likely cited the Herald in her filed copy but the reference was cut out in the production process by subeditors.

Internecine spats like this one, in the words of retiring New York Times columnist William Safire, probably fall into the category of “a towel-throwing contest between fight managers”. Luckily there was some actual meat under the warring duo’s bylines in their respective mastheads. Maiden produced a reasonable analysis piece and Bachelard was on fire over media conflicts on climate change, including the following candid quote from Andrew Bolt responding to a suggestion Gina Rinehart had used her 10% stake in Channel 10 to get his Bolt Report on the air. ”Can you just leave off the Gina Rinehart thing? It’s so offensive. … You know what the implication is? That [I’m] a cat’s paw for Gina Rinehart,” Bolt told Bachelard, in a remark that cannot have been intended for publication.

Peter Fray

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