Nov 22, 2012

Media briefs: Mitchell misquoted … PM goes Age … paper kaputt …

Harold Mitchell misquoted on newspaper carnage ... PM goes The Age over AWU reporting ... more bad news for German newspapers ...

Death of papers greatly exaggerated. "They are dead," Harold Mitchell shockingly declared of newspapers yesterday. The Australian recorded the thoughts of the country's most powerful media buyer at an Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne yesterday, where the Aegis Media Pacific executive chairman apparently applied the analogy of a tiger snake cut in half "with two ends wriggling away ... that's the same as print media, it just hasn't realised it is dead". Except Mitchell didn't say that. Nor did he say, as The Oz quoted him (from the lunch Q&A) that "if Fairfax had a leader their share price would be six times as high". Mitchell was about to ring journalist Nick Leys to complain when Crikey spoke to him this morning. Mitchell insisted it was a straight misquote. "My comments with regards to the print media industry were taken out of context," he said. "My observation was that audiences are migrating to online rather than the printed version. The comments about Fairfax were completely misquoted and inaccurate." Mitchell told us "I've been the greatest supporter of Greg Hywood and Fairfax publicly many times over". We asked for Leys' response but didn't hear back. -- Jason Whittaker PM not happy with The Age. It appears The Age is in hot water with the Prime Minister over its reporting of the AWU  Julia Gillard controversy. In the innocuously titled article "The Age and the Prime Minister" today, the paper states "Prime Minister Julia Gillard has challenged The Age over its reporting of her involvement" in conveyancing for the purchase of a house later found to have been bought with stolen union funds, as well as the accusation she "gave legal advice to assist in the perpetration of a fraud". The story also reports that law firm Slater & Gordon has complained The Age "misrepresented its position on the matter". The offending articles appeared on November 13, in which Age editor-at-large Mark Baker wrote: "Law firm Slater & Gordon has contradicted Julia Gillard's claim that she was not in charge of legal work" in the purchase of the property, based on statements provided to the Australian Press Council by Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech that Gillard had "acted directly" in the conveyancing. The paper has apologised for breaching Press Council confidentiality rules, adding Slater & Gordon has now publicly said its previous statement did not mean the PM had "direct responsibility for the conduct of the Blewitt conveyancing matter". The firm apparently failed to answer when questioned about where the difference lay between "acting directly" and "having direct responsibility" in the matter, though The Age "accepts" that Slater & Gordon's "statement may not contradict the Prime Minister's denial that she was in charge of the conveyancing file". -- David Donaldson Another German paper kaputt. More evidence the slide in the fortunes of the print media is not only an English-speaking problem. Overnight another German paper said it was about to close -- the second paper to collapse in the past 10 days, as the eurozone crisis, weak ad markets, the internet and recession cruel newspaper profits. The Guardian reports Financial Times Deutschland will print for another two weeks before closing down:
"Members of the supervisory board of FT Deutschland's owner Gruner + Jahr discussed the future of the financial newspaper on Wednesday and it is believed that it will decide to close the paper. The outcome of the meeting was not known on Wednesday night but staff members said they had been told it would close on 7 December." "FT Deutschland was founded in 2000 but the FT publisher Pearson sold its 50% stake to Gruner + Jahr at the beginning of 2008. It has a circulation of 100,000 but has never been profitable. An insider told Reuters that Gruner + Jahr expected a loss of €15m this year for its financial titles FTD and the magazines Capital, Impulse and Boerse Online, which have more than 300 employees. Gruner + Jahr is the magazine division of the German media company Bertelsmann. Europe's biggest media firm plans a board meeting as soon as possible to discuss the news and is expected to back any decision made by Gruner + Jahr's board."
It mirrors the move earlier this month to place the The Frankfurter Rundschau daily paper into bankruptcy, after it suffered years of rising losses and falling sales. Last month the second-biggest German news agency, DAPD, filed for insolvency protection and announced plans to cut 100 jobs. And the Financial Times in London has a costs and staff freeze until at least the end of December because of weak ad markets. Its analogue sales fell more than 16% around the world in the year to September. -- Glenn Dyer

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