New chair for Press Council. In a bit of late-breaking news, the Press Council has a new chair. Professor David Weisbrot AM will assume the position in March after Julian Disney steps down at the end of February.

New Matilda and the New Daily have also joined the council.

Two down, two to go? Sydney University professor Barry Spurr and his legal team, headed by Sydney silk Arthur Moses QC, have reached a confidential settlement with New Matilda over the publication of the professor’s private emails.

Speaking to Crikey this morning, New Matilda editor Chris Graham said the only things he could about the settlement. “Both parties are satisfied with the outcome, and we’ve protected the anonymity of the source in the agreement,” he said.

It’s usual for such cases to involve articles being removed from the websites of the publisher, but all the Barry Spurr pieces can still be viewed on New Matilda, suggesting their removal was not part of any settlement.

Graham paid tribute to his legal team, firm Banki Haddock Fiora, which acted pro bono on the case. “If journalists need good lawyers, then they’re absolutely outstanding,” Graham said.

The lack of a court case will be a disappointment for the country’s privacy advocates and lawyers, who told Crikey the Spurr case could establish a legal precedent on the tort of privacy, which has never before been tested in Australian court.

It’s not the last bit of legal trouble for the upstart website, which since being taken over by Graham in May this year has pursued a model of daily analysis supplemented by bombshell investigative features that have often led to court dates. Graham and his legal team will be back in court this Friday, as Group Colleges Australia is suing the website for defamation, following a three-month investigation that explored the private education company’s alleged close links to the Liberal Party. The website could also be caught up in legal action by Senator Nova Peris over the publication of her personal emails by the NT News, details of which were followed up by New Matilda. Arthur Moses also represents Nova Peris.

Earlier, student Freya Newman pleaded guilty and was given a two-year good behaviour bond for unauthorised access to a computer after she helped reveal to New Matilda details about Frances Abbott’s secret scholarship to the Whitehouse Institute. — Myriam Robin

Who owns your weather snaps? On-the-ground photos of breaking events are one of the ways Twitter has helped news-gatherers the world over, but is every photo on Twitter fair game? Several Sydney Morning Herald scribes and photographers have been shocked to find photos they’ve taken appearing in the Daily Telegraph, after the newspaper published several photographs of the Sydney storm taken from Twitter.

In one example, a photo that led the Daily Tele’s website briefly but now appears to have been taken down, was actually taken by SMH photographer Nick Moir (see his original tweet, which went somewhat viral).

Another photo, used inside the paper on December 4, was of a fire at Pyrmont snapped by SMH cadet Rose Powell (see her tweet).

Twitter is a tricky area for news organisations. Legally speaking, fair use exemptions do allow the reproduction of events for the purpose of telling the news. But when that extends to using the work of reporters at rival organisations, the whole thing starts to make less sense …  — Myriam Robin

Insiders beats Bolt. There are statistics, damn statistics and the stuff that appears occasionally in The Diary column in The Australian’s Media pages. Take the item about how Andrew Bolt’s show might go to Sky News (going from hardly seen to invisible) with a nightly show. Given News Corp produces Bolt, it will decide where the Herald Sun columnist appears.

In the Oz item, the following statement was made: “The fact that his Sunday program rates better than ABC’s Insiders doesn’t hurt either.” But that’s just plain wrong.

Insiders beat The Bolt Report this year in regional and metro markets. The figures for yesterday’s final report were typical of this year. Nationally, Insiders yesterday had 523,000 viewers (357,000 on ABC1 and 166,000 on News 24). The Bolt Report had a national total of 355,000 (163,000 at 10am and 192,000 at 4pm). In fact, on several occasions during the past two months, Insiders has topped the Sunday morning chats, with its audience exceeding that of Seven’s Weekend Sunrise and Nine’s Weekend Today. That is what happened yesterday. — Glenn Dyer

Walkleys sponsor tries to cower Fairfax? There’s a curious item in The Australian this morning alleging that Qantas chief Alan Joyce has declared “war on Fairfax” for its seemingly pro-Virgin reporting. The flying kangaroo isn’t booking ads in The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age. 

Of course, there’s nothing unusual about a sponsor pulling advertising over harsh coverage. But it’s hardly a statement in support of free speech. This is relevant, because Qantas was only last week sponsoring the Gold Walkley award, giving the winner $10,000 of business-class flights. In a further twist, the winner of the Gold Walkley was one Adele Ferguson, who wrote a piece that evidently upset Qantas, arguing Joyce should step down. It must have been a troubling sight for the airline, who didn’t just hand over the tickets, but also sent a table of executives along for the night. Attending journalism’s “night of nights” was head spinner Olivia Wirth, quoted in the Oz this morning giving an answer that neither confirms nor denies the report.

Qantas announced this morning that it was expecting to report an underlying net profit after tax of between $300 million and $350 million in the first six months of the 2015 financial year. The company said all its cost-cutting and savings targets had been met or exceeded, and the airline also got a handy $30 million benefit from lower Australian fuel prices.

“This demonstrates that the strategy we have outlined to transform our business is working,” Joyce said in a statement.

It’s amazing what the benefit of several thousand job cuts, a 30% fall in oil and fuel costs and the lower value of the Australian dollar will do to managerial ability. — Glenn Dyer and Myriam Robin 

The Australian Income Recession Review. The coverage of recessions are making for some unbalanced coverage of the economy via more “income recession” rubbish in the Fairfax Media tabloids as we saw at the weekend. A commentary in The Sydney Morning Herald at the weekend read:

“This contraction is now officially an ‘income recession’, because it has happened for two consecutive quarters. So, while gross domestic product expanded by 0.3 per cent in the three months to September 30, real net disposable income shrank 0.3 per cent, after a 0.2 per cent contraction in the June quarter.”

Well, that’s wrong — this contraction isn’t known officially as an “income recession”. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, Reserve Bank and other authorities haven’t termed it that — only some Sydney-based economists and a few credulous media commentators. Unlike the United States, we don’t have an official body to rule on recessions. But, wait, what’s this? Someone at Fairfax Media reckons the term “income recession” is a load of rubbish (which it is). It’s the learned economics editor Ross Gittins.

The idea of an “income recession” was sparked by The Australian Financial Review’s coverage of a note by Melbourne economist Saul Eslake last week, and then by the paper’s reporting and analysis of the national accounts — by economists who know there’s no such thing as a “technical income recession” or even an “income recession”. Readers of the AFR would benefit from Gittins’ coverage of this and other economic issues — the paper would be improved as well. Unfortunately, Gittins doesn’t fit the market-first-at-all-costs ideology that underpins the AFR‘s reporting. This one-way traffic makes for unbalanced coverage and diminishes the Fairfax Media coverage as a whole. — Glenn Dyer

Front page of the day. A powerful statement on the death of Eric Garner, who was died in New York after being placed in a chokehold by police for selling untaxed cigarettes …

Peter Fray

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