Barry v The Australian: part 12,344. We’re beginning to think Media Watch host Paul Barry and Australian media editor Sharri “I love a good media war” Markson should get a room. Yesterday Markson said Barry was “obsessed” with News Corp papers, and she rounded up several News editors to support the theory. In response, Barry told Crikey: “We’re obsessed with upholding high standards in the media. If The Australian and Daily Telegraph want to stay off Media Watch, they should clean up their act.” The stoush continued on Twitter, with Barry promoting yesterday’s Media Watch …

Paul Barry

The answer is News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt. The obsession continues in the pages of the Oz this morning as well, with Markson writing this morning that the ABC board might examine Barry’s conflict of interest at its next board meeting. The evidence for that claim? A retiring board member told her:

“The issue that you’re discussing in relation to Paul Barry has emerged in recent weeks so it hasn’t been something that has come to the board’s attention … They have arisen in the past couple of weeks, so it’s occurred between meetings.”

She has no other sources, so the only evidence Markson presents for her claim that the ABC board will examine Barry’s supposed conflict of interest is that it has not done so thus far. The supposed conflict stems from the fact Barry has published a book on News Corp and continues to speak on the issue outside the confines of Media Watch. The contention that this constitutes a conflict of interest was ridiculed at the ABC this morning. An Aunty source told us the conflict of interest claim was “ridiculous” and “like suggesting [Oz commentators] Peter van Onselen or Troy Branston shouldn’t report on politics because of they’ve published books on politics in the past”.

Markson was back on the Media Watch warpath on Twitter this morning, tweeting a picture of last night’s ratings figures with a caption saying last night’s episode of Media Watch had 611,00 viewers — not nearly the million Barry claimed. However, the 611,000 figure was for capital cities only — add in the national and iView figures and you do get close to a million (at the non-commercial ABC, regional viewers still count). Plenty of seasoned media commentators tried to set Markson straight, much to her chagrin. Oh, and one last thing: if you’re an “extreme Leftie”, Markson would like you to stop tweeting at her. — Cassidy Knowlton

Correction of the day. While we’re on the subject of Media Watch v Sharri Markson, we noticed something odd yesterday: in the iPad version of a story about ACMA forcing the ABC to apologise to News Corp, The Daily Telegraph editor Paul Whittaker is quoted as saying it was Paul Barry who had been ordered to apologise in 2012 when he was filling in for Jonathan Holmes as Media Watch host. The paper version had something different, quoting Whittaker as saying it was Holmes who fought against having to apologise. Which is it? The paper corrected the record today …

Paul Barry correction The Australian

So it was, in fact, previous Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes, not Barry, who was ordered to apologise. We are told it was a “production error” — one that seems to have changed a quote. — Cassidy Knowlton

Courier-Mail slapped with $120,00 fine. Still on News Corp, The Courier-Mail has been fined $120,000 for publishing the names and photographs of a family involved in a custody court battle. Australian media aren’t allowed to identify anyone involved in family court proceedings, but that didn’t stop The Courier-Mail doing so four times in the one week in May 2012. The stories were about a mother who bought her four children to Australia after a messy divorce to stop the father’s chances of receiving joint custody. An Australian court ordered the girls returned to Italy so the Italian legal system could decide on custody, against the wishes of the girls and their mother. This led to traumatic scenes at the airport, where the girls begged to be allowed to remain in Australia. It all made for interesting newspaper fodder.

The newspaper, which published pictures of the girls on the front page, pleaded guilty to the charges. However, Justice Terence Martin said the publisher had shown no remorse, adding:

“It seems to me that the newspaper seized upon what it regarded as a sensational story, which would be attractive to readers, and put the story ahead of its legal obligations … This was persistent, serious offending in deliberate defiance of the law and importantly in complete disregard of the interests of four children.”

Myriam Robin

Weiner on the up and up. Crikey‘s favourite disgraced former United States congressman, Anthony Weiner, has a new gig. He was looking a bit limp after being beaten furiously by Bill de Blasio in New York’s mayoral race, but a plum job as a Business Insider columnist has perked him right up. From the BI brief:

“The new column, which will be titled ‘Weiner!’, will run on the last Friday of each month beginning this week. It will feature Weiner’s thoughts on the top political issues of the day imbued with his unique insider’s perspective.”

Weiner, aka Carlos Danger, is not the first disgraced New York pollie to find a second life in the media, with short-lived New York governor Eliot “Client 9” Spitzer becoming a columnist for Slate for a time. We’re sure Weiner, all too familiar with the ins and outs of politics, will rise to the challenge. — Cassidy Knowlton

Slip of tongue or low blow? Sunrise sticks the boot in. The ABC’s Australian Story had a hit episode last night, pulling in 755,000 viewers for an episode about former Sunrise mastermind Adam Boland, who left Channel Ten mere weeks after launching Wake Up, citing health issues. Boland revealed in December that mental illness was the reason he had stepped down, and he has since been uncharacteristically upfront about his illness, discussing it on the program last night. Which is why this morning’s episode of Sunrise left us a little queasy.

Yesterday, The Australian revealed Boland had sent an email in 2011, when he was no longer in charge of Sunrise but still at the network, saying then-hosts Kochie (David Koch) and Mel (Melissa Doyle) should perhaps be replaced with fresher faces as their ratings faltered. The matter was rehashed on rival Channel 9 last night, leading the Sunrise team this morning to talk of “saner heads prevailing” at the network. According to, here’s the transcript (italics ours):

Kochie: I’ve been getting emails from people last night and on Twitter saying “are you going to be sacked from the show?” Well no, it was 2011 from a bloke who’d moved on, and saner heads prevail.
Natalie Barr: Yes, much more sane heads. And brilliant minds stepped in.
Sam Armytage: Yes lucky for you, of course they were sane ... and we’ve won the ratings ever since.

Kochie has since apologised on Twitter. — Myriam Robin

Front page of the day. The Malaysian government has announced MH370 has crashed into the Indian Ocean and it expects to find no survivors. Malaysia’s Star mourns the loss of those on board …

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey