(Image: Parliament House)

Stenography watch The Daily Telegraph on Saturday gave us a breathless piece reporting that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had the final evacuation plane in Kabul hold for a few minutes, allowing an Afghan woman and her child to board. Using the glorious shorthand that the publication “understands” — usually shorthand for “we’re not reporting who told us this to maintain our access, plus it might raise questions about whose interests the story serves” — the piece has a clear implication: far from botching the evacuation of our allies in Afghanistan and leaving them to die, Morrison is actually intervening to save women and children.

But is it true? Could it be true? We note that former military personnel on Twitter are arguing it’s utter nonsense. And would it be a good thing if the PM had that granular level of influence on the evacuation? We asked the PMO if there was any truth to the story, and whether it was usual practice for the PM to get on the blower regarding the exact individuals being ferried out of military situations, but it didn’t get back to us.

Absolutely Stoked It always pays to watch what media proprietors keep, not what they leave behind. Last week, 81-year-old Kerry Stokes quit as chairman of his major investment, Seven Group Holdings — although he’s remaining as a “consultant” at $475,000 a year for three years and no doubt getting the rights but not the duties of a director.

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But Stokes is remaining as chair of Seven West Media, and its control of the Seven TV network and The West Australian, his real powerbase. Stokes may be just another Perth businessman if he speaks as chair of Seven Group, but if he speaks as owner of a national TV network people snap to attention.

Late last week we saw this principle in action: the Australian media sat at the great man’s feet and absorbed his wisdom on what we should do in the slowly emerging vaccinated COVID/Delta world.

Stokes rolled out the “Australia must learn to live with COVID-19” line and called on state premiers to lift lockdowns once vaccination rates hit 70% in The Australian, The West Australian and The Australian Financial Review.

But if it’s as a media mogul that Stokes earns his attention, it’s worth examining his record in that area. For example, when he created Seven West Media in 2011 it was worth $4.1 billion, but last Friday its market value was just under $700 million. Indeed, Stokes is standing down from the board of the company where he has had genuine success in building value — 10 years ago, Seven Group’s shares were worth about $8; last Friday the price was up to $21.

Wran away As Crikey was going to print, guns were once again being drawn over the ABC’s three-part documentary into the 1979 Luna Park fire that sparked a battle over the legacy of former NSW premier Neville Wran. An external review into the series, conducted by former Four Corners journalist Chris Masters and academic Rod Tiffen, was provided to the ABC board last week and is due to be released as soon as today. But the ABC wasted no time leaking parts of the review to Guardian Australia and the SMH overnight. 

According to the ABC, the review has found the series mounted a compelling case for a new investigation into the fire, but unfairly dealt with allegations about Wran’s connections to underworld figures.

Former SMH editor and Wran adviser Milton Cockburn did not wish to comment ahead of the review being released. But The Australian columnist Troy Bramston, who has written a series of stories picking apart the investigation, did not hold back, saying it was unprofessional of the ABC to selectively brief the media before the review was released: “The ABC has a lot of explaining to do. They should begin by apologising to Wran’s widow and children.”

Bezos, you did it I suppose we shouldn’t expect subtlety from the near-trillionaire who fired himself into space for five minutes for no obvious reason. Via the Washingtonian, we present a portrait of Jeff Bezos’ hiring process for the executive editor of The Washington Post. Candidates dined with Bezos and others and ate:

… off dishes emblazoned with the Post logo … The plates weren’t the only piece of Post swag Bezos showed off — according to two sources, he also told guests he owns a lock busted by the Watergate burglars.

Trope watch Still in the US, here’s a wonderful example of a pointless news convention: A weather report, in this case NBC veteran Al Roker, needlessly being buffeted by weather to give viewers an insight into what it looks like to be rained on. Roker gets extra marks for standing in the sea for no goddamn reason.


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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