No love lost between Fin and Oz. This is rather something. In an editorial today, The Australian calls on Fairfax chief Greg Hywood to “salvage the reputation” of The Australian Financial Review before “it’s completely shredded by the deranged output of senior reporter Neil Chenoweth”, who’s supposedly given free rein under the “the inattentive eye of AFR editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury”.
The missive is prompted by Chenoweth’s reporting of a News Corp tax win that helped blow out the federal budget by the odd billion or so. But it’s Stutch who comes in for the fiercest criticism. The paper intones:
“Stutchbury, who was considered incompetent by staff of this newspaper before his removal as editor, and his senior editors should be held to account for publishing Chenoweth’s blatantly dishonest reporting.”
We wondered if Stutchbury might speak to his lawyers. “I don’t believe that editors should take action for defamation other [than] in the most extraordinary instances,” he told us. Here’s his response to the stoush:
“The Australian is perfectly entitled to challenge any story in The Australian Financial Review. But the guts of the yarn remains entirely legitimate: the Australian Tax Office paid $882 million to News Corporation last year. This came after a Federal Court ruled against the ATO’s disallowance of a $2 billion tax deduction claimed from a series paper transactions between the company’s subsidiaries. At the same time the ATO was deciding not to appeal the court decision, News Corp newspapers in Australia were running a vigorous campaign against the then-Labor government. The payout to News Corp, which is one of the largest tax payments made by the ATO, only came to light following the release of the company’s group accounts last week. The issue of multinational tax payments of course is one of the key agenda items on the G20 finance ministers’ meeting to be chaired by Treasurer Joe Hockey this weekend.
“While The Australian is entitled to challenge any interpretation of these facts, its personal attacks on the Financial Review‘s Walkley Award-winning Neil Chenoweth do not advance its argument. Chenoweth’s long history of investigative reporting, from Rene Rivkin to Eddie Obeid, is unsurpassed in Australian financial journalism. Personally, I am disappointed at The Australian‘s personal attack on myself, which its editors know to be incorrect.”
Of course, Stutchbury — who served as editor of the Oz under current editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell — came under fire from other journalists for seemingly burying a ripper yarn about his former employer all the way back on page eight of the Fin. When Crikey interviewed Mitchell and Stutchbury for The Power Index two years ago, they seemed close, even after Stutchbury famously defected to Fairfax in 2011. Wonder what went wrong? — Myriam Robin
Seven director’s Murdoch connection. Why are News Corp Australia journalists reluctant to highlight links to their company and its major shareholder, Rupert Murdoch, when they report on people in the news, especially people from other media groups? The question comes to mind (again) from the reports this morning in the News Corp papers on yesterday’s raids on Seven Network offices in Sydney by federal police looking for information about any interview arrangements the network might have (or not have) with Schapelle Corby.
A central player in the mini-dramas of the raids was Seven’s commercial director, Bruce McWilliam, who, it is reported, rang his friend, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who then rang two other government ministers (including Attorney-General George ‘The Librarian” Brandis. In a Daily Telegraph story this morning on the relationship between McWilliam and Turnbull headlined “Mates go back to their law days”, Jennifer Sexton highlighted how the two had a law firm together and they live close to each other, are friends, and are guests at each others’ Liberal Party fundraisers.
But even before those days at those high-powered Sydney firms, McWilliam worked for someone closer to Sexton: her ultimate boss, Rupert Murdoch. Indeed, McWilliam worked for News Corp and its related entities longer than he’s been at Seven. His own corporate bio at Seven charts his long career in media law, including his time working for Murdoch. — Glenn Dyer
Bolt’s back, with an extra 30 minutes. On March 2, Andrew Bolt’s Channel Ten show The Bolt Report is returning — in an hour-long format. The program will be repeated from 4pm on Sunday as a lead-in to the 5pm news. Bolt’s extra half hour has come at the expense of Ten’s Meet The Press, which ran at 10.30am on Sundays last year. To expand Bolt’s program to an hour, Meet the Press won’t air (Ten describes the show as being “on hiatus”).
Viewers are promised a new “media watch” segment. Going on his previous efforts, Bolt won’t go near the News Corp/Murdoch family — after all, News Corp and Ten’s Melbourne office (controlled by a company chaired by Lachlan Murdoch) will produce The Bolt Report (we would be glad to be proven wrong). Going on what appears on his daily blog, the segment will likely be the usual attack on the ABC and Fairfax.
And will Peter Meakin, Ten’s director of news and current affairs, have any control over a program part produced by News Corp and hosted by family favourite Andrew Bolt? Will he be responsible for the content, as all news and current affairs directors are supposed to be? — Glenn Dyer
Guardian mistakenly outs Sir Patrick Stewart. In an article about actress Ellen Page coming out as gay, Guardian contributor Jane Czyzselska wrote that “some gay people, such as Sir Patrick Stewart, think Page’s coming out speech is newsworthy”. Gay rights advocate (and Sir Ian McKellan bestie) Stewart did applaud the speech — the only problem is he’s not gay. The Guardian issued a correction today, saying the sentence should have simply read “some people …”. Stewart isn’t too fazed …
Front page of the Day: After five years of denials, Craig Thomson was found guilty of fraud yesterday. Guess the Daily Tele‘s been waiting to do this for a while …