The Australian had the scoop about a major restructure at News Corp in an exclusive interview on Monday with Peter Blunden, former Herald Sun editor and chairman of the News editorial board.
In his new role as national executive editor, Blunden told the Oz, he was tearing down Rupert Murdoch’s “silo model” of journalism – which saw each masthead run its own team of reporters and subeditors – and setting up a “streamlined” digital model.
There was just one tiny detail omitted by media editor Leo Shanahan. Tearing up the silos necessarily meant destroying dozens of journalists’ jobs. Instead of having four reporters covering a round you would have just one, and the story would be syndicated.
The day after the Blunden interview was published, the axe fell. Sources say about 65 people were tapped for redundancy at the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph, although the company won’t confirm numbers. On Thursday it was the Oz’s turn and another 13 people were made redundant, including an editor in his 60s who had clocked up decades on the payroll and a brilliant photographer.
Long-serving arts editor Ashleigh Wilson, a Walkley-award winning reporter and the author of Brett Whiteley: Art, Life and the Other Thing, is one journalist who welcomed the redundancy.
Wilson told Beast he was “deeply grateful” for his 20 years at the Oz which included a stint as Darwin correspondent and a decade shaping the arts coverage.
“It’s time for new adventures and new challenges but I leave with nothing but fond memories and gratitude,” he said.
The pain at the Murdoch empire is being felt in the UK too, where the chief executive of News UK, Rebekah Brooks, used similar language to Blunden when she told staff on the Sun and the Times the company needs to “streamline the business and take some tough decisions, saying goodbye to some valued and talented colleagues”.
In a delicious reversal of company culture made famous by Kim Williams’s shortlived tenure as chief executive, Blunden revealed that News Corp was moving away from relying on the instinct of editors, also known as the “tummy compass”, to the more dependable science of data which tells you what people read and when they subscribe.
“There will always be a place for great instinctive editors, editors who make guts calls, who possess great judgment, and journalists who also know their markets,” he said. “But in the end, the numbers don’t lie in real time.
“We know what people are reading and we know, even more importantly, why people are subscribing.”
Williams famously tried to overturn the Murdoch editors’ reliance on the tummy compass but after 20 months of resistance from said editors he bowed out defeated.
Apparently the News Corp newspapers are already singing from the same song sheet on policing, with the Australian’s media writer Lilly Vitorovich volunteering her full support for the editorial position of the Daily Telegraph, expressed forcefully on the front page on Thursday.
Insiders change outlook
After a backlash last week after failing to feature a single non-white voice on a panel which talked about Indigenous disadvantage and the black lives matter protests, Insiders has admitted it “can do a better job” on diversity and has invited Indigenous journalist Bridget Brennan to join the panel this week.
The justification for the narrow pool has always been that the panel is drawn largely from the Canberra press gallery and other political commentators, which is of course overwhelmingly white. An analysis by Junkee found Insiders had not featured a single panellist from a non-European background in at least the last three years.
“Over the past week there has been welcome discussion about diversity in the media, some of it centring on last Sunday’s Insiders panel,” an ABC spokeswoman said. “Panels are made up of senior political journalists and commentators. Throughout this season the program has been adding new voices to its roster, and that will continue, with a particular focus on broadening the range of voices and perspectives to better reflect the diversity of the Australian community.”
Nine’s nine-day late correction
Nine days after stating in an editorial that Australia did not have a legacy of slavery, Nine newspapers’ the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald have removed the claim and published a correction in both papers.
The timing is curious, coming so long after the event and the day after the prime minister, Scott Morrison, also denied the country’s legacy of slavery.
“An editorial on June 3 incorrectly stated Australia did not have a legacy of slavery,” the correction said on Friday.
“Australia brought about 60,000 people, largely from the South Pacific, as slave labourers between 1842 and 1904. Many Indigenous people were also forced to work in conditions tantamount to slavery.”
Executive editor James Chessell told Beast: “We should have corrected it earlier.”
A not-so-beautiful set of numbers
Judith Sloan, a columnist at the Australian, has had her copybook as a person who is good with numbers blotted.
Earlier in the year Sloan, who we found out via an email leak was paid $375,000 as contributing economics editor, was made redundant and offered $1 a word to write her columns as a contributor.
This week the graduate of the London School of Economics wrote that “Treasury’s dodgy maths are going to cost taxpayers a motza” but got the top line figure wrong by a factor of 10. Perhaps the Oz has made too many subeditors redundant after all.
The Australian Financial Review took the unusual step of adjusting, apologising and republishing a cartoon after complaints that it depicted the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in an anti-Semitic trope.
“Both Rowe and the Financial Review apologise for unintended hurt and offence caused by the cartoon published in last weekend’s AFR Weekend,” the paper said.
The editor-in-chief, Michael Stutchbury. and cartoonist David Rowe maintained the cartoon “contained no Jewish references” but accepted that it might have seemed that way to some readers.
Critics said they saw a yarmulke, a Jewish cloth cap, on the treasurer’s head and a hooked nose reminiscent of negative racial stereotypes on his face. Frydenberg was also holding a dollar sign that “reinforces greedy and crooked Jewish stereotypes”.
Former race commissioner Tim Soutphommasane told the Australian Jewish News it was a peculiar apology but welcome.
“Unfortunately, all too often outlets double down when confronted with criticisms about racist stereotyping and tropes,” Soutphommasane said. When it comes to racism, it’s as much about the impact as it is about the intention.”
Legal woes on Sunrise’s horizon
Channel Seven has had to put out legal fires on several fronts after it broadcast a dreadful segment in March 2018 in which one of the guest commentators, Prue MacSween, said some children removed from their families in the stolen generations were taken for their own good and “perhaps” the government should do it again. After an adverse finding from the media watchdog and a separate defamation action, Sunrise is now facing a fresh legal challenge in the form of a group racial discrimination suit in the federal court against Seven, McSween and host Samantha Armytage.
Armytage has responded to the legal threat on social media, reiterating she had never called for a second stolen generation and there is no place for racism in the media. She also shared some shocking death threats she has received online from strangers.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that Sunrise breached broadcasting standards for accuracy and provoked serious contempt on the basis of race when they made strong negative generalisations about Indigenous people as a group.
Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, who is leading the complaint originally lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission, said: “This nation-wide broadcast by Channel 7 in March 2018 was another symbol of national shame and another appalling example of the deeply entrenched virus of racism that still plagues white platforms of privilege in this country”.
Solicitors for Dixon-Grovenor, Susan Moriarty & Associates, said a conciliation at the commission had broken down and a court action would be filed as soon as the paper work is available.
Seven said it is yet to receive a writ: “Although we don’t disbelieve the reports, Seven is not aware of any actual claim being filed at this stage – so is not able to comment on this action. If and when anything is filed, we will review and take the appropriate steps. Seven settled the original matter in late 2019 in the federal court with the Yirrkala community and the Yolngu families and offered an unreserved apology on air shortly after.”