Controversial Age film critic Jim Schembri has taken leave from his plum gig after a Crikey investigation revealed he had repeatedly dobbed on his Twitter critics to their bosses and hinted at taking legal action with the broadsheet’s official backing.

Sources inside Media House told Crikey this morning a slab of pre-booked leave was brought forward after Schembri and Age editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge discussed the revelations that have infiltrated the Australian Twitterverse.

Crikey understands it was agreed during the talks that Schembri take an immediate breather from his prized position, which includes penning reviews for entertainment supplement EG and maintaining a blog, Cinetopia.

On Friday, Crikey detailed four separate instances in which the balding buff contacted or attempted to make contact with his Twitter critics’ employers. Yesterday, Crikey reported Schembri had approached a fake Twitter avatar, @abcnewsintern, and demanded they provide “us with your name and the name of the person you answer to”. The exchange last night drew the attention of ABC managing director (and Schembri’s former editor) Mark Scott.

Schembri, also a children’s book author, has raised issues with Age management in the past. In July 2010, he apologised to Age staff after he slammed the Melbourne broadsheet’s ethics as “an optional extra rather than an ethos” during a panel discussion at the Jam Factory. More recently, he is believed to have expressed his displeasure over an issue with the newspaper’s creaking IT infrastructure that was inhibiting his workflow.

Meanwhile, Crikey can reveal that prominent Australian comedians have been contacted by Schembri in response to public criticism. In a recent email to popular stand-up Justin Hamilton — obtained by Crikey — Schembri assumes the corporate identity of The Age to complain about a tweet stating fellow Age critic Jake Wilson had lost the plot because he was “spending too much time” with his colleague:

To: Justin Hamilton
Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2012 06:21:00 +0000
From: Jim Schembri
Subject: Age inquiry

Justin Hamilton, this Twitter remark by you was brought to our attention. It was made at 10.26am, Thursday 12 January. “Justin Hamilton: Jake Wilson must be spending too much time with Jim Schembri, his review of The Descendants and The Muppets proves this. #theage #yuck”

Sir, we cannot make sense of it. We have no idea what it means, what it is meant to mean, or what it is supposed to infer. As its author, we look forward to your prompt clarification.


Jim Schembri
The Age

Hamilton, in a recent podcast, told his audience the Schembri approaches were a regular occurrence: “… every time I say his name he sends an email to my management asking what I mean by my comments which are usually derogatory.”

Another leading gag artist, Wil Anderson, has also been chided. Anderson told Crikey that Schembri emailed his manger in strident terms to complain about a tweet saying that he only avoids “movies that Jim Schembri gives good reviews”. Schembri also sent a passive aggressive missive to Anderson and his manager Erin Zamagni claiming the tweet had “story potential” and that he wanted to “do an interview”.

From: Jim Schembri
Date: Feb 2, 2012 03:48:10 AM
Subject: Wil Anderson hates Red Dog
To: Wil Anderson, Erin Zamagni

Dear Wil,

the story potential here is way too big to pass up. We’ve

got to do an interview. Please contact me soon as you can on 8667 XXXX.

Gotta love it.


Jim Schembri
The Age

An official Fairfax Media spokesperson told Crikey the company didn’t comment on employee issues. Schembri was contacted for comment and we will include his response when we receive it.