Jackson no whistleblower on Thomson: new book. Kathy Jackson was not the one who blew the whistle on Craig Thomson’s dodgy use of a union credit card, Australian journalist Brad Norington writes in a new book published this week on the former Human Services Union whistleblower who was later found guilty of misappropriating union funds.

In one of several extracts from Norington’s book to appear in The Australian this weekend, the senior journalist writes that Jackson had “no role in leaking the damaging ­information that led to his conviction over misusing union credit cards on prostitutes”. Norrington writes:

“[She] claimed credit for leaking the Thomson information to then Fairfax journalist Mark Davis as early as 2009. When I asked her in late 2013 if she leaked the Thomson information to Davis, Jackson replied: ‘Of course I did it.’ Fellow author Aaron Patrick confirmed Jackson had told him the same thing during the writing of his 2013 book on Labor’s woes, Downfall.

“But Jackson did not leak the story that kicked off the HSU scandal on Thomson, whose vote in parliament became crucial to Julia Gillard’s one-seat Labor government majority after 2010. The real source confirmed that the motive for exposing Thomson was deep-seated frustration at the failure of HSU officials, including Jackson, to pursue Thomson.

“Confirmation that Jackson was not the leakier makes sense of some of her other behaviour. She did not personally move against Thomson until a unanimous HSU national executive vote to refer him to police in August 2011.”

The claim that she had leaked against Thomson, Norington claims, was useful to Jackson’s bid to gain control of the HSU.

In another extract, Norington writes of Jackson’s initial firm friendship then growing disagreements with Bill Shorten. At a party in 2001, a disagreement over a Labor preselection between the two devolved into an acrimonious food fight:

“She picked up a bowl of ice-cream and threw it at him. He threw something at her. It was starting to turn into a food fight. He grabbed her hand as she was about to throw something at him again. The ice-cream was so cold that it burnt her hand. Everything stopped, and then she went around for the rest of the night saying, ‘Look at what he’s done to me, a pregnant woman’.”

— Myriam Robn

Sheehan censure for SMH. The Sydney Morning Herald failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of its journalism when it published its much-derided February article about the supposedly un-investigated brutal gang rape of a Sydney nurse by “Middle Eastern raping cunts”.

The article, by Paul Sheehan, has been internally investigated by the SMH. Editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir said he found unacceptable lapses in journalistic practice in its publication. It was also the subject of a scathing and detailed piece by journalist Richard Cooke that was jointly published by The Monthly and Guardian Australia, which alleged a pattern of sloppy journalism on the part of Sheehan, a senior writer at the paper. Sheehan has since taken redundancy.

The paper does not appear to have defended the Press Council adjudication, expressing its regret and telling the body that the article had “represented unacceptable breaches of fundamental journalistic practice”. The Press Council agreed with this assessment, saying in its adjudication:

“… reasonable steps were not taken to verify or justify the report and that its Standard of Practice relating to accuracy and fairness was clearly breached in this respect. The Council also concludes that reasonable steps were not taken to avoid substantial offence, distress and prejudice and without sufficient justification in the public interest, especially in reporting Louise’s description of the Arabic-speaking men as ‘MERCs. Middle Eastern raping c—-‘.”

But it also said the paper had taken reasonable steps to publish a correction and undertake remedial action:

“Although the original decision to publish the article was deeply regrettable, given the subsequent steps taken by the publication, including its publication of critical articles and letters, the Council does not consider that there was a failure to provide adequate remedial action. Accordingly, there was no breach in this respect.”

Myriam Robin

Belt-tightening at Classic FM. While there are no planned job cuts, ABC Classic FM, like all parts of the public broadcaster, needs to meet a 2% savings and reinvestment target by 2020, station manager Richard Buckham said in an email to staff last week.

The email came in the wake of a meeting with the Community and Public Sector Union, which itself was held in response to an article in classical music mag Limelight that cited expectations of major job cuts at the network. While Buckham said there were no plans for job cuts (mirroring comments he gave Crikey in the wake of that article earlier this month), he said staff would be aware of the “financial pressure the ABC is operating under”:

“We’ve heard the previous Managing Director and the Director of Radio talk to us about the need to meet the ABC’s budgeting challenges. The Radio division is committed to meeting significant savings and reinvestment targets of around 2% of budget by 2020. Like all areas of Radio, ABC Classic FM has to contribute to this, and like our colleagues in TV and News, our investment in serving existing and new audiences needs to come from content budgets.

“It follows that we can’t confirm changes to Radio’s activities before commissioning for 2017 is finalised and budgets are confirmed. However, if any area is subject to significant change, the ABC would be required to make a formal proposal and consult with staff in accordance with the EA provisions.

“The challenge for all of the ABC is to go for audience growth while also freeing up funds for the corporation’s reinvestment strategy. This is a huge task, but it’s also key for our success as a modern public broadcaster.”

The tone of the comments has done little to dissuade staff that something ugly could come down the line.

That Limelight article also relayed fears that ABC Classic FM was moving to automate more of its shows — airing them without presenters. But Buckham told Crikey the station was moving in the other direction: it currently has presenter-less programs overnight but the broadcaster will reintroduce live hosts by the end of the year. — Myriam Robin

Time’s new head honcho. Last Thursday and Friday nights, Michael Duffy, deputy managing editor of Time magazine, was on ABC TV talking to Tony Jones and Matt Wordsworth respectively trying to explain the Republican Party’s National Convention in Cleveland. The question now is: will we see Duffy reprise that role at this week’s Democratic Party National Convention in Philadelphia after his big job promotion on Friday?

As part of a sweeping revamp of Time Inc’s structure and magazine management, Duffy was named as editorial director across the entire company, adding to his previous role as deputy managing editor of Time magazine. It sounds like the sort of multi-tasking role so common to more and more print companies at all levels. Fingers crossed Duffy will have time to explain to Australian viewers this week’s nomination of Hillary Clinton as the party’s candidate for the November 8 battle with Trump.

Duffy will be overseeing the editorial side of a diverse set of magazines now grouped in four divisions (some would say “silos”). Each division will be overseen by an editorial director and not a pure publisher (media reports say that role is on the way out at Time Inc). According to a memo to staff from Alan Murray, Time Inc’s new chief content officer (he was appointed 10 days ago), the new structure is intended to allow the company to “to take advantage of opportunities that cut across individual titles, with a special focus on digital content and video production and distribution”. NB: not print.

But is there going to be enough room for Duffy? Murray said in his memo, according to Poynter:

“All titles will be divided into four groups, each headed by an editorial director who will be charged with finding new ways to work together to grow our audience and our business across brands, new ways to take advantage of digital and video opportunities that may cut across brands and new efficiencies in how we operate across brands. The editorial directors will report to me.”

These flurry of changes come just over two years after Time Warner spun off Time Inc to exist on its own as a standalone print business. Since becoming independent, Time Inc’s shares have lost more than 30% of their value — but they are up 10% so far in 2016, with much of that rise happening in the past couple of months. — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey