If you speak to someone confidentially at a News Corp title, will your discussions stay off the record forever? For those who used to chat to former editor-in-chief of The Australian Chris Mitchell, the answer is clearly not necessarily.

He’s freely admitted to having “broken confidences” with several prime ministers in a tell-all memoir. While Mitchell has argued the public interest of his revelations, if News Corp journalists can’t be trusted with off-the-record conversations, they’ll have a harder time breaking stories. So perhaps it’s not surprising that in an email, executive chairman Michael Miller has reminded the company’s editorial leaders that “promises of confidentiality to a source must, of course, be honoured”.

In a restatement of the company’s code of ethics, which Miller tells colleagues to “reinforce” with their newsrooms, trust and respect are restated as “core corporate principles” which make “an essential contribution to our continued business success”.

“These values are fundamental to the way we do business, and should be upheld in our dealings with external contacts including those in business and politics.

“Those who deal with us, and work for us, need to know that ours is a company with a long history of valuing trust and confidences, and this remains constant today. We know, and respect, that private conversations and confidences will remain just that – private and confidential.

“Trust is core to our company’s reputation and the reputation of each our mastheads. The very nature of our business means that we enjoy the privilege of access to individuals and information, for the benefit of our readers – and that privilege must be respected at all times.

“These principles are also more formally outlined in our own code of conduct — ‘A promise of confidentiality to a source must, of course, be honoured’. Our greatest asset is our reputation and we should be mindful in our dealings each day of how we can burnish that reputation.

The email doesn’t mention Mitchell by name (or anyone else), so Crikey initially wondered whether a particular, yet-unreported off/on-the-record scandal with a current reporter had prompted the reminder. But we now understand that’s not the case. — Myriam Robin

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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