We love a good email brouhaha here at Crikey. Who could forget the heated exchange between globetrotting journo Eric Ellis and the then-editor of The Monthly Ben Naparstek from 2009? Today we present another delightful e-stoush between two media heavy-hitters: The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell and The Australian Financial Review senior journalist Neil Chenoweth.

Here’s how it came about. Chenoweth, a long-time Murdoch watcher, has been getting stuck into News Corp over recent weeks. First, he questioned whether News had made a good investment by buying Alan Kohler’s Australian Independent Business Media.

Then he argued that News Corp’s decision to separate its print and entertainment assets was bad news for papers such as The Australian — which he estimated makes a loss of $100 million over three years.

Mitchell was not impressed. “I had an exchange with Neil two years ago about the possibility of him jumping to The Oz,” two of his staffers reported him saying last Monday. “I am not sure how that sits with his bitterness against [Alan] Kohler for doing the same.”

As the email exchange shows, Mitchell later admitted the insinuation that Chenoweth had angled for a job at The Australian was wrong and agreed to publish a correction — which he did.

But that wasn’t the end of it. On Friday, following up an item in the Fin Review, the paper’s Strewth columnist James Jeffrey rehashed the claim and quoted a line from an email Chenoweth sent to Mitchell in 2008: “For one reason or another there’s a view that I am the AFR staff member perhaps least likely ever to receive a job offer from The Australian.”

When viewed in its full context, however, a rather different picture emerges. There are other juicy details in the exchange: Mitchell spills on the broadsheet’s profit levels ($10 million a year pre-GFC apparently) while Chenoweth lashes the paper’s hostile coverage of his recent pay-TV piracy yarns.

The Fin veteran concludes his last email by offering to have a “civil cup of tea” with Mitchell in the future.

Somehow, we doubt that’ll be happening any time soon …

Peter Fray

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