"... I've never had a harassment complaint. I know some editors that have had two dozen, but I haven't had my first yet.""Chris has a lot of the attributes of your ideal editor," says The Australian Financial Review editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury. "He's strong-willed, has a strong grasp on his view of the world and he pursues things relentlessly." According to Mitchell: "I can be pretty direct but if you ask people around here they'd say I take pretty good care of them. A lot of people have an image that I'm a brutal hard-arse bastard but I've never had a harassment complaint. I know some editors that have had two dozen, but I haven't had my first yet." But there's no escaping his dark side. He can be petty and vindictive -- from ticking off on the "outing" of a pseudonymous blogger to issuing defamation threats against a journalism academic to warning Victoria's Office of Police Integrity that he would use "every journalistic and legal measure available" to fight it. Some hyped-up stories -- like the front-page splash holding up a Bondi surfer as an expert on sea level rises -- simply haven't passed the smell test. One journalistic heavyweight, who identifies Mitchell as a mate, describes him as "nuts" and says he "can be a real prick at times". "I wouldn't trust him as far as I could spit," says a former employee, who left on unhappy terms. "He's the most unforgiving person I've ever met." And another: "He has all these agendas and if you're on the wrong side of one of them you become isolated very quickly. "He has replaced good journalism with agenda-setting." There are signs, however, that Mitchell's ability to influence the agenda is on the wane. His paper still packs a punch, as seen in its coverage of dam management during the Brisbane floods or its all-out campaign against media regulation, which appears to have spooked the government. But it's not dictating political debate like it was in the days before the 2010 election, when the mining tax battle played out on its front pages and it was hammering the government over the "Building the Education Revolution" stimulus program. The hands-off, knockabout CEO John Hartigan has also been replaced by the cost-cutting ex-Foxtel boss Kim Williams. The Australian has been forced to make around 30 staff redundancies, with big names such as George Megalogenis leaving the paper. Mitchell is hardly effusive about Williams -- "I find Kim reasonably engaging"-- but insists there is "no great schism" between them. The boss who matters most, of course, is Rupert Murdoch -- and he's an unabashed fan of The Oz and Mitchell. "Chris has always had one-on-ones with Rupert that other editors haven't -- in the US and here," says a veteran News insider. For someone who's always loved mixing it with power players, it's an intoxicating lifestyle. We won't believe his talk about giving the game away until he hands in his security pass. "When I'm on holidays if my newspapers don't arrive I'm desperate; I'm onto the newsagent straight away asking where are my papers. When I was in Turkey last year I was on my iPad trying to figure out what the paper was leading with. "It's all I've ever done since I was 17. It's so much a part of my identity now I wouldn't know how to do anything else."
The Power Index: Chris Mitchell, the country’s most influential journo
If Julia Gillard scores an unlikely victory at the next election, there’s something she can look forward to during her next term as prime minister: Chris Mitchell retiring from his post as editor-in-chief of The Australian. At least that’s what Mitchell predicts. The paper’s 50th anniversary in mid-2014, he says, would be the logical time […]