Despite the controversy surrounding his choice to publish, Stephen Mayne still lists the day he revealed that then-senators Cheryl Kernot and Gareth Evans had a five-year affair as one of his favourite moments in Crikey‘s history.
In part two of a detailed chat about Crikey‘s history and the media in general to mark the site’s 15th birthday celebrations, Mayne talks about Crikey‘s best stories in the first five years of publication, as well as his fondest memories.
The story fits with Mayne’s original vision for Crikey and the reasons why the name was chosen. Although his Anglican Priest English Aunt (not his mother as asserted in the video interview, she just passed on the view) wasn’t happy with its blasphemous connotations, Mayne says the name “Crikey” was chosen because it was easy to spell and reflected the “brash and bold and alive” content that the website would feature. He attributes the idea for the name to one of the original shareholders, Andrew Inwood.
When it comes to the Kernot-Evans story, he calls it “one of the most dramatic days in journalism in Australia”. Mayne says in hindsight, “with what Laurie Oakes did, it was the right call to tell everyone else what the mainstream media were hinting at but not explicitly saying”.
“Laurie Oakes had done the dance of the seven veils, where he’d said Cheryl’s got a secret and she’s not telling you what it is.”
“The whole media was saying ‘we know it is we’re not going to say’.”
He said the day was unforgettable, with the pressure related to making a big call and publishing such an explosive story.
“Everyone was debating, Crikey‘s done it, do we we repeat what Crikey has said?”
He also lists “taking it to the billionaires and the very rich and powerful” as his favourite stories in his time as Crikey‘s editor, including stories that led to the demise of the Democrats as the major third force in Australian politics.
Journalists often don’t recognise the positive effects their stories can have, Mayne says. He says he was told by an NRMA insurance executive in the years after Crikey published a negative story on the company’s investment in re-insurance that the negative headlines saved the company $300 million because it sold out of the stocks before the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“Often journalists don’t realise the impact of their stories and you hear later about that impact.”