From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Who’s next to walk from Fairfax? Sydney Morning Herald veterans David Marr and education editor Andrew Stevenson have left the building. So who else is planning on taking a voluntary redundancy from Fairfax? Crikey hears that former Europe correspondent Paola Totaro — who has been on a year’s leave without pay in London — has put in an offer.

Our well-placed Fairfax insider says old-school colour writers David Humphries, John Huxley and Damien Murphy are other favourites to depart. News Review editor Fiona McGill, we hear, may also be keen. The SMH would be unlikely to let Ross Gittins take redundancy, our insider says — and not just because he carries more gravitas than any other economic commentator in the country. Gittins would be up for a whopping payout given he’s been at the paper since 1978.

Walkleys in bed with the enemy?  Still in media-land, the Walkley Foundation, an outfit run by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, says its aim is to support and encourage professional and ethical journalism and reward journalistic excellence. As well as handing out the annual Walkley Awards, the foundation runs fundraisers for press freedom and training sessions teaching journalists new skills. But should it be helping PR professionals master the art of spinning the media?

The foundation is today hosting a development program for public affairs professionals, sponsored by PR strategy firm 360m, at the NSW Teachers Federation in Sydney. For $550 ($385 if you’re a union member) participants can attend sessions such as “Storm clouds: how to manage a crisis”, “Building Brands” and “Media management and strategic communications”. According to the conference program, the latter will explore “communication strategies for good times and bad, and the most effective methods of managing the media”.

“Why is the Walkley Foundation doing this?” one veteran Fairfax journalist asked Crikey. “It’s the antithesis of journalism.” Well, indeed. The Walkley Foundation came under fire in 2010 for inviting Exxon Mobil — which has donated big amounts to climate sceptic groups — to be the gold sponsor of its media conference.

Newman spinner rubbing the wrong way. Much media angst in the Sunshine State with the antics of a Campbell Newman spinmeister. Writes our George Street mole:

“After trying and failing to get a gig with a dying Bligh government the bloke then waltzed into the a media job with the LNP and is now tipping off his old mates to other news outlets’ “exclusive” stories. Rumblings from newspapers and two commercial TV news outlets are that he’s not doing Newman any favours in the popularity stakes. Which could be a problem for the Premier who has alienated large swathes of the electorate since coming to power.”

Councillor rues his parliamentary snub. Who’s the ex-Labor councillor in Melbourne blaming everyone for not being promoted to state Parliament when he had been telling everyone for three years it was his? “Now he is spreading the story that he will be made Croatia’s next ambassador to Australia,” says our source. “I never realised that that country was so desperate.”

Technology staff angst at Qantas. The IT department at Qantas is going through significant upheaval, we’re told. Staff were recently given redundancy packages due to an impending restructure, we’re told, and subsequently more than 200 staff were required to reapply for some 100 positions. Our source says none were successful. And what’s more:

“Now apparently some staff have been offered ‘contracts’ to sign without pay scales clearly defined; what conditions Qantas is offering them no one seems to know. (Note that in recent history, IT contractors have ironically had more benefits than long-term staff — contractors have been given greater access to staff travel benefits, etc, than staff that had been with Qantas for many years despite being employed by Qantas for only months, to the detriment of staff morale.)

“Is management determined to outsource all of it services and to destroy what is left of its relationship with its staff? This is at the same IT management that chose an obsolete version of the Blackberry (according to a US RIM executive paxing on a QF flight) and had to dump its mobile telephony contact (Telstra?) due to massive overcharging, and terminate the contract with Telstra Enterprise Services due to repeated system failures. Who is accountable?”

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

Peter Fray

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