From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

A PM plea from Fairfax journalists? We hear journalists at The Age are contacting public figures around Australia to ask if they will put their name to a petition to the Prime Minister asking her to legislate that newspaper editors should retain control of editorial content and not be influenced by proprietors. Stay tuned.

Gina’s Fairfax with the tell-all extracts. If Gina Rinehart is going to start sacking journalists she doesn’t like, Adele Ferguson would be close to the top of the list. The veteran business scribe has penned a book on the mining magnate, which has been eagerly anticipated for months. Some of what she’s written — and we’re told it’s not exactly flattering — will apparently be rolled out on Saturday in extracts published in Good Weekend inserted into The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. (We rang Ferguson and GW editor Ben Naparstek this morning but haven’t heard back). We bet that copy will be in wide circulation in Fairfax newsrooms today …

Is Aunty next? After a horror week for media, with widespread job cuts at Fairfax and News Ltd, will the ABC escape unscathed? One tipster asks if ABC staff are “sitting around waiting to go” and hints at possible changes at ABC News, the international division, IT, people and learning and business services. Know more? Email us.

Digital age at News Ltd, indeed. News Ltd employees were supposed to hear of their company’s restructure via a video from CEO Kim Williams, beamed into their computers yesterday afternoon. But a 3AW caller said some News employees had to tune in to ABC News 24 to watch the video and learn of their future — because the video-link did not work.

A Senate stand for carbon tax disasters. Stand by for the critical issue of which disasters have been caused by the carbon price to be revisited in Senate question time today, following the ground broken by George Brandis earlier this week when he claimed Fairfax job losses (and, by logical extension now, News Ltd job losses) were caused directly by the carbon price. Something’s cooking.

Arts students miss out. Concerns are coming in for Melbourne’s La Trobe University students at the news that the faculty of humanities and social sciences is to shed 45 jobs and several majors including art history, Indonesian and religion. A Crikey correspondent says the university is “attempting to hide details from students” by waiting until exams before making the announcement. Our correspondent says some of the axed subjects have 100-200 students in first year alone, and it’s not clear what will happen to students who are mid-study. Subjects will drop from 913 in 2012 to 400 in 2013, according to our source.

Abbott earns some pen-pals. A personalised begging letter sent by Tony Abbott to people in various electorates appears to have elicited some colourful responses. Crikey has heard from recipients in WA, Victoria and Sydney, most of whom come from safe Coalition seats, and some of whom would like to know how Abbott’s minions got hold of their name and address. The letter basically warns that Labor is ruining the country, and says that while Labor gets its election war-chest from the unions, the Coalition “funds its campaigns from voluntary contributions, many of them small donations”. As it happens, the letter, which recommends people only donate “within your means”, does not mention the large donations the Coalition receives from mining giants.

Some of the letter’s recipients told Crikey they threw it away, but others took the time to write back. “I have voluntarily decided not to give you a donation today or any day as a matter fact … If you voluntarily step aside for Malcolm Turnbull, I may reconsider,” one told Abbott. Another wrote: “… let me inform you that I do not appreciate receiving unsolicited correspondence from any political party, particularly correspondence seeking financial donations … Australia is indeed a great country and does have a great future so long as politicians like you don’t continue on your path to destroy it for your own selfish political gain.”

Was it only voters in safe Coalition seats who got the letter?

*Do you know more? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed-anonymous form

Peter Fray

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