Remember that obituary late last week where The Australian called Australia’s best-selling author Colleen McCullough “plain of feature” and “certainly overweight”? Sources at the Oz told Crikey on Friday (after our email deadline) it had been penned by a since-deceased male obituaries writer, while declining to name him. His prepared piece wasn’t sufficiently checked before publication, which mortified insiders were acknowledging as a failure of the editing process.

The obituary was swiftly condemned near and far, with international outlets joining the fray after News Corp’s local competitors went to bed. The reaction on social media was no less brutal.

In its weekend edition, The Australian addressed the stuff-up in its Cut and Paste column, which repeated claims made to Crikey that The Australian gave McCullough “more of a send-off than any other Australian newspaper. “Among it all was one less-than-ideal sentence. No prizes for  guessing what got the attention.” Journalists at rival outlets weren’t buying it, telling Crikey that The Age and the Canberra Times managed to put the late-breaking news of McCullough’s death on the front page without calling her fat or ugly.

In the Oz’s defence, its front-page story on McCullough was penned by literary editor Stephen Romei, and was a sensitive and worthy farewell to one of Australia’s most accomplished literary figures.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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