Nancy errs. How does expelled at 16 become expelled 16 times? That’s the question Kate Durham, a jeweller who happens to be married to Julian Burnside, asked herself Saturday morning as she read The Australian‘s Media Watch Dog column, edited by Gerard Henderson and written by his pooch Nancy. “How does the Oz let this foolish liberal crank Gerard trash a once proud paper with sloppy mistakes against partners of opposers?” she tweeted.

Henderson had been riffing on a profile about Durham published in The Age, which included this line:

“The artist and jeweller, who calls herself a ‘wild child’, was expelled at 16 for ‘political activity’ and incensed during the Vietnam War.”

In Nancy’s paws that morsel became:

“Indeed the artist and jeweller refers to herself as a ‘wild child’ who was expelled from school on no fewer than 16 occasions for political activity. [What? Did Ms Durham’s school also have an escalator? – Ed].”

After the mistake was lodged with the Oz, the story was corrected online with an apology at the section. But that doesn’t seem to have appeased Henderson’s critics, with many questioning why Durham was fair game in the first place. Henderson included the dig at her in a wider item about her husband, the famous human rights lawyer.

Crikey asked Henderson about the incident. He sent us a 400-word response that can be read here. We’ve summarised for the important bits below:

“I had had a “particularly busy week” and a John-Laws’-style deliberate mistake was perhaps inevitable.

“I must have heard Kate Durham – that self-declared “wild child” – say on 16 occasions that she had been expelled from school. With this rebel past in mind, in haste, I misread Suzanne Carbone’s report in The Age (6 Sept) and (falsely) declared that she was expelled on 16 occasions from one school – rather than on one occasion when 16.

“I note that The Age’s Suzanne Carbone, who wrote the fawning piece on Ms Durham on 6 September, has been banging on about this. At least I correct errors in MWD. The Age, on the other hand, has censored my letters when I have attempted to correct its errors about me.”

Henderson, who signed off AC (for Always Courteous), doesn’t appear to think much of the criticism that wives of enemies should be off-limits. “The fact is that I did not attack Ms Durham.  I simply quoted from Suzanne Carbone’s grovelling puff piece which The Age, apparently, regarded as news,” he wrote.

Asked whether her article was a “grovelling puff piece”, Carbone told Crikey: “Mr Henderson knows what a ‘grovelling puff piece’ is because Murdoch papers are a production line of grovelling puff pieces about Murdoch papers.” — Myriam Robin

Leakwatch cont’d: Last week we noted that Bill Leak had a twitter feed explaining his cartoons. Now we find that the Oz has a whole department devoted to doing just that. Do a search in Newstext (News’ text-only editorial archive), and if Bleaky has touched down on your topic, you get something like this: 

Edition 1 – All-round Country WED 01 JAN 2014, Page 013 

Leak Cartoon 


A journalist asks “Any New Year’s resolutions, Clive?”

Clive Palmer replies “I’m going to raise the level of public debate to farcical”

In his hand Palmer holds a sheet of paper that reads ‘Palmer to Xenophon: Give yourself an uppercut and a haircut!’

Cartoon prints. For information on buying prints of any Bill Leak cartoon go to [email protected]

To buy a print of a Nicholson cartoon go to

Kudelka prints are available from 

Illus:  Cartoon

IllusBy:  Bill Leak

Column:  Commentary

Section:  FEATURES

We note that Nicholson and Kudelka have their own sites, while Bill isn’t allowed to. But writing up cartoons: best/worst job ever. We bags First Dog On The Moon — Tuesday: “A Jack Russell is talking to a singing spring roll about Gonski while in the background Malcolm Turnbull (Mrs Slocum) is blowing up Christopher Pyne with death rays from her/his eyes. This is panel one of 16. In panel two…” — Guy Rundle

Bolt Watch. Some strange politics on the Bolt Report this week, where the little Dutch boy can’t always point his guests in the right direction, no matter how well-vetted. Bolt, Peter Costello and Michael Costa (we have a picture of them on the show below, and another in their sinister undersea headquarters), after bagging Bill Shorten on defending Aussie-made submarines, talked about ICAC, and the 10 NSW Liberal politicians now found to have taken illegal donations — “because of a stupid law” according to Costello (“Which they broke,” Costa gently reminded him.).

Good to know the new rules: breaking laws you think are dumb isn’t really wrong. Later, Bolt and Miranda Devine defended the Devondale Milk ad that the Ad Standards Board had branded as racist. “The ad shows all these people in corporate suits and high-heels trying to run a farm, and it’s saying they can’t run a farm, and we should let dairy farmers run dairy farms.” Bless. They say all ads are aimed at children, and News’ most-favoured daughter does not disappoint. Miranda, dear, the farmers don’t really run Devondale Murray Goulburn (though they own it) — a major foods company with headquarters in Southbank. And they don’t allege that people in suits run the farms. The ad is really targetting Saputo, the Canadian company currently buying into Victorian dairy. Aimed at the pollies as much as the punters, it’s naked appeal to economic nationalism — like Bill Shorten on submarines. Amazing how that ceases to be an issue when you want to bag a media regulatory body, innit? — Guy Rundle

Taken in by takeover. The sharemarket has given a big thumbs-down to rumours, published in The Australian’s media pages, of a Fairfax Media takeover. A week ago, Crikey pointed out that the Fairfax share price had fallen 10 cents or so from when the company reported its 2014 earnings in mid-August to September 5. The shares fell from around 91 cents to 81.5 cents. After the story appeared in The Australian on September 9, the shares rose 2.4% and then another 0.6% the next day, as punters once again bet on the accuracy of the Oz’s story and ignored the strong denial from the Rinehart camp in both the Oz‘s piece and follow-ups in Fairfax Media titles, such as The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review.

And speaking of hot air, the AFR this morning buried on page 37 an “exclusive”on Foxtel thinking about a joint bid for Ten with US equity group, Providence Equity Partners (which was Lachlan Murdoch’s US partner of choice in his abortive bid for Consolidated Media Holdings back in 2008, just as the global financial crisis was starting to engulf financial markets). The GFC saved Lachie Murdoch from a costly mistake, though the family company, News Corp, later emerged to buy Cons Media from James Packer, Kerry Stokes and minority shareholders.

The AFR’s James Chessell and Sarah Thompson said the Foxtel deal fell over because it and Providence couldn’t agree on price and structure. In other words, cash strapped Foxtel (it is up to its neck in debt, being highly geared by its owners, News and Telstra) wanted Providence to provide most of the financial support in exchange for a majority stake in Ten, with Foxtel sitting on a minority. The deal would have bailed out Lachlan Murdoch, and helped James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon to depart Ten with smaller losses. — Glenn Dyer

Print media orphans. The number of orphan print media companies in the US continues to grow with yet another struggling group looking to sell itself to anyone interested. This time it’s America’s second biggest newspaper company (by circulation), Digital First Media, which has been put up for sale by its private equity owners who can’t handle the fact digital revenues are not replacing old-fashioned, full-value revenues from advertising and sales of analogue papers.

Starting with the Murdoch clan’s spin-off of News Corp in June 2013, media giants such as Time Warner, Tribune Media, and Gannett have split themselves in twoso-called “good companies” based on TV assets, and “bad companies” based on print assets. The driving factor has been the continuing decline of print and the failure of digital ad income and paywall/subscription revenues to replace the once lucrative print ad and sales revenues.

Digital First Media operates in 15 states, with “800 multi-platform news and information products”, including 76 daily and Sunday newspapers, and 160 weeklies. The company claims it serves 75 million customers a month. The combined companies claim close to US$200 million in digital ad revenues a year. That’s around 20% of total revenues, but management says the increase hasn’t made up for the drop (undisclosed) in revenue from print advertising and sales.  When the two companies merged late last year a statement claimed revenues of US$1.3 billion.

The move comes months after Digital First halted a costly attempt to try to create a centralised news content operation for many of its papers to cut costs. It has also put 70 of its real estate properties up for sale for a reported price of US$85 million. That digital hub operation (called Project Thunderdome) was axed as part of US$100 million in cost cuts revealed in April to help counter the slide in print advertising. Rather than a straight sale, it’s likely the company will be broken up by its owner, private equity group, Alden Global Capital, and sold off to possible buyers. According to media reports, Alden has lost money on a number of investments. — Glenn Dyer