Let’s go to the tape … Major Fairfax shareholder Simon Marais has cast doubt on an interview he gave The Australian media editor Sharri Markson, telling Fairfax’s media reporters that the published interview “was so far from what I really said”:
“They try to push you to say certain things … She (the journalist) was desperate for me to say the paper has been going backwards and Roger Corbett (Fairfax chairman) was doing a bad job etc, and I just didn’t want to go there because I don’t think that’s true actually.”
Marais, a South African-born physicist turned contrarian investor who’s generally quite forthcoming with journalists, reportedly said Fairfax could well be at the end of its life cycle, and as a result, could be broken up. He also said investigative journalism was nice to have and important for society, but if people weren’t willing to pay for it, it shouldn’t be up to private investors to bear the losses.
It’s not clear what part of this Marais denies, but presumably it’s the part about Fairfax being broken up, as he’s made similar comments about investigative journalism before. Did Markson over-egg his comments? Markson has said (on Twitter) that she’ll publish the audio of the full interview later today. We’ll be listening to it as soon as it’s up. — Myriam Robin
News UK journo accused by judge of lying. The Murdoch empire, the board of News Corporation and its UK subsidiary have a new problem to deal with — a journalist whose tainted court testimony has sunk a high-profile trial in London. One of the grandstanders of UK journalism, the man known as the “Fake Sheikh”, Mazher Mahmood, was suspended by News UK after the trial was aborted overnight.
Singer and former UK X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos was on trial for allegedly setting up a cocaine deal between a friend of hers and Mahmood, who posed as a wealthy Bollywood film producer interested in casting the singer as the lead in a major film. After a week, the judge threw out the case entirely. News UK and The Sun now face court costs for the aborted trial and Mahmood faces the prospect of being charged with perjury.
The case and the original report once again call into question the highly aggressive news-gathering techniques of News UK journalists and Fleet Street generally. Mahmood strongly defended his reporting techniques before the Leveson inquiry into the UK press that was set up in the wake of the News of the World hacking scandal. Mahmood is now accused by a UK judge of lying to pervert evidence in the high-profile case brought on the basis of his five-page “scoop” published 13 months ago in The Sun on Sunday, which replaced the News of the World (for which Mahmood worked for 20 years). Mahmood was one of the star reporters on the two papers, with his long track record of “stings” whereby he posed as a rich Arab.
In dismissing the case, Justice Alistair McCreath told the jury had he known about Mahmood’s actions he would have agreed to an earlier defence application to abandon the trial. Now it will be up to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether to pursue its star witness in this case for perjury. It will also be up to the management of The Sun and News UK to decide if they will defend the case and pay Mahmood’s legal costs. — Glenn Dyer
War reporting: America and Russia edition. A plane shot down and early evidence suggests pro-Russian separatists operating in what was formally part of the Ukraine are to blame. This has posed a problem for Russia’s state-controlled media outlets, which have responded by airing every conspiracy theory they can find to muddy the waters on just who was responsible for the fatal crash, while blaming foreign media for jumping the gun in assigning blame. The methods are outlined in this piece in Foreign Policy:
“Russian media coverage of the event has unfolded like a noir detective story, with a nefarious plot twist emerging at every turn. On Russian television and Twitter, wave after wave of theories have emerged, blaming Kiev and other unseen enemies in a frenzy of conspiracy that seems calculated to obscure the truth about MH17 rather than reveal it.”
Meanwhile, another war has prompted soul-searching in an ally, as America grapples with the ground invasion of Gaza launched by Israel last week. The imbalance of the death toll has become impossible for media outlets to ignore, leading to bizarre outbursts like that from the Israeli Prime Minister, who blasted the global media for being taken in by “telegenically dead Palestinians”. The US media have, this time round, been far more willing to present the Palestinian side of the story. New York Magazine has a piece on why:
“After Israeli extremists kidnapped and murdered a Palestinian kid named Mohammed Abu Khdeir, apparently in retribution for the earlier murder of three Israeli teenagers, police detained and beat up his cousin, Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old Palestinian-American from Tampa, vacationing with his family. It is common for television news broadcasts to carry sympathetic stories of a local American kid tragically caught up in Middle Eastern violence. It is not so common for that kid to be Palestinian.”
BBC culls all Panorama staff, new Newsnight host announced. Amid the 415 jobs cut in the BBC news division announced at the weekend are the four staff reporters of Panorama, the BBC’s flagship weekly current affairs program. John Sweeney, Shelley Jofre, Paul Kenyon and Raphael Rowe were all given redundancy notices in the purge. The BBC claims 195 new jobs will be created, making the net loss 220 jobs — which is still a lot — but many of those new gigs will be in the online/website and video area, not day-to-day reporting. The cutting of the four Panorama reporters would be like the ABC sacking all the reporters on Four Corners. The BBC says it will second reporters from other programs and the newsroom, or get outsiders to do stories. That sounds like a bit of outsourcing.
Besides the sackings there was an important appointment — the new host of the group’s flagship nightly current affairs program, Newsnight (which botched a couple of years ago the investigation into Jimmy Savile, the now dead serial sex abuser). Evan Davis, currently host of BBC Radio 4’s Today program and a former BBC economic editor, replaces Jeremy Paxman, who hosted Newsnight for 25 years until he left in June. — Glenn Dyer
Front page(s) of the day. The SMH and Age today are rather similar …