From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

‘Masthead champions’ at the Herald. The Fairfax-owned Newcastle Herald may be axing 66 editorial production jobs and outsourcing the work to New Zealand (66 jobs are to be axed from the Herald and the Illawarra Mercury), but we hear that a handful of subeditors will be retained and rebadged as, wait for it, “masthead champions”.

“The subs to NZ plan involves keeping a few subs back here whose responsibility it will be to ensure the pages are right,” Crikey’s newsroom source reports.

“And these people — I am told this is NOT a joke, are to be called Masthead Champions.”

“God, please let it be a wind up.”

Masthead champions? We’d have thought the 66 workers who will be leaving the Herald were exactly that.

Not Nauru. Nauru might not be the asylum-seeker haven the Coalition thinks it is, with a source suggesting the Pacific nation’s political situation “has become unstable”. Our contact says the secretary of finance Seve Paeniu’s employment has been terminated, while Australian expat Reynold David, the chief executive of the government-owned Republic of Nauru Phosphate Corporation, has been sent on leave. Know more about the situation in Nauru? Email us.

Three guesses on the answer to this one. GetUp! has been raising money from opponents of Gina Rinehart to pay for an online poll on Fairfax websites asking for people’s opinions on her. The results (due on Thursday) may not surprise us. The poll has been run as a prominent ad dubbed “Rinehart running The Age?” on the Age and the SMH online over the weekend, and is still on The Age website. The poll states that “mining magnate Gina Rinehart has bought huge stakes in Fairfax Media” and asks what the respondent would think if she gained representation on the Fairfax board.

Crikey filled out the poll with the most anodyne answers possible (to maintain our editorial independence), but was disappointed not to be rewarded by seeing the results to date, as sometimes happens with online polls. Instead GetUp! kindly invited us to join their organisation. GetUp! spokesman (and ex-TT worker and Nick Xenophon staffer) Rohan Wenn declined to tell Crikey how much had been spent on the ad, but said there had been more than 20,000 responses.

More on Fairfax. Some Fairfax subscribers were unimpressed to receive a personalised “open letter to subscribers” on the company’s sweeping cuts — four days after the official announcement. The letter by the CEO of Fairfax’s metro division Jack Matthews, which dropped into inboxes on Friday, starts by saying “I would like to make sure you hear the story straight from us”. The irony of this post facto comment, given that Fairfax’s business woes seem to stem in significant part from being slow to embrace the fast-paced online world, was not lost on some recipients. “It’s four days since it was announced, for goodness sake … no wonder it’s going down the gurgler,” one Fairfax subscriber wrote to Crikey.

Pride and prejudice in Denison. It will be a clash of the literary titans for the federal seat of Denison in Tasmania when newly preselected ALP candidate Jane Austin takes on sitting member (and political queen-maker) Andrew Wilkie. The good voters of Denison may be hoping it’s a contest of sense and sensibility rather than pride and prejudice. Crikey makes no apology for stretching the literary theme by noting that Wilkie Collins was also a 19th century English author (he wrote The Woman in White). Got a better literary pun? Sharpen your quill and let us know.

Staying with literature … Back in April, Crikey reported on the colourful resignation email distributed by outgoing Australian Poetry director Paul Kooperman. Now the peak body has appointed one of its own board members, Nell White, as replacement CEO. “Surely inappropriate”, suggests one mole.

Brown heads to Rwanda. Bob Brown says he is “out of the cage” and ready to transcend trivia and take up the cudgels on behalf of the more meaningful political issues plaguing the planet. Upstairs at Melbourne’s Fitz Cafe last night, the retired senator gave an impressive off-the-cuff oration at the launch of Responsibility, a joint effort of Melbourne University’s formerly warring politics and anthropology arms, explaining he was looking forward to embracing theoretical issues outside the strictures of Capital Hill.

Brown and partner Paul Thomas, who arrived fresh from a screening of To the Arctic 3D at the Melbourne IMAX, announced they were soon jetting off to Rwanda to relaunch the country’s local Greens arm. Brown, who seemed have read at least some of the book, reserved some special opprobrium for the Murdoch’s Press (and Jon Faine’s) mocking of his “Dear Earthians” address, and slammed the lightweight reportage of the James Ashby-Peter Slipper affair. The extra-political musings were lapped up by the assembled academic thinkers, including departmental supremo Adrian Little and Responsibility‘s co-editors, enviro-type Robyn Eckersley and White Nation author and keen Princes Park jogger Ghassan Hage.

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

Peter Fray

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