Fairfax metro media editorial director Garry Linnell has fired back at claims from The Monthly editor John van Tiggelen that popular magazine insert Good Weekend has never “looked so bereft” as it does under editor Ben Naparstek.

In a stunning email, which has been widely circulating at Fairfax and is published in The Australian today, van Tiggelen attacks Naparstek as a “f-cking dalek” who steals writers and ideas and pays writers wildly different rates. Naparstek, 27, was van Tiggelen’s predecessor as editor.

At least one Good Weekend regular, former Fairfax journalist Lisa Pryor, has already threatened to stop writing for the magazine unless they increase her pay.

In his email van Tiggelen writes:

“Every month, various contributors to the magazine bring to my attention that the very day after the new issue is sent out, they get a call from you asking them to pitch ideas to Good Weekend. Invariably these writers are struck by your lack of guile; they include those who you have, apparently unwittingly, offended or even cast off in the past. Invariably they are also struck by the lack of your own ideas.”

Van Tiggelen also accuses Naparstek of regurgitating a six-year-old Two of Us column in the magazine’s most recent edition and trying to convince a writer to sell a story commissioned by The Monthly to Good Weekend.

According to Linnell, however, it’s The Monthly that has lost its spark.

“One of the reasons we hired Ben to edit GW is that he made such a mark with The Monthly,” Linnell told Crikey. “Everyone used to talk about that magazine under Ben’s editorship, and it’s a pity that it no longer happens. Here’s hoping John can recapture some of its former cachet. Competition is good for everyone.”

Linnell also responded to claims that the quality of Good Weekend has diminished recently because of the loss of veteran feature writers such as Greg Bearup and Fenella Souter.

Good Weekend has never been stronger or better,” he said. “The latest reader research shows time spent reading the magazine has grown by 25% in the past year. The mag has been breaking new ground and attracting great writing. And it was back on the winner’s dais at the recent Walkleys.”

Van Tiggelen’s email has caused a major stir in literary circles by revealing the wildly divergent pay rates for freelance magazine contributors. According to the email, the rate per word at Good Weekend varies from 70 cents a word for some writers to $2.50 a word for others. The email also suggests that female writers may be getting underpaid compared to their male counterparts.

Regular Good Weekend contributor Lisa Pryor told Crikey she will be asking Naparstek to increase the $1 a word rate she has been paid for GW pieces. If he doesn’t agree, she says she will take her stories elsewhere.

“Ben is lovely and I consider him a friend, but I won’t write for less than other people,” she said. “I’m going to back myself to get paid more than $1.”

Pryor, a former opinion page editor at The Sydney Morning Herald, says she knows cash-strapped publications cannot pay all writers the same rate. But she is concerned the freelancing game tends to disadvantage women — whom she says tend to be less egotistical than men — and blokes who are less confident about standing up for themselves.

“Now I’m going to be arrogant and start demanding to get paid more,” she said.

Linnell dismissed the suggestion women writers are being systematically underpaid at Good Weekend as “absolute nonsense”.

According to the last Australian Bureau of Circulations figures, The Monthly had average sales of 31,391 in the most recent quarter, up 10.4% on the same period last year.