Sydney Morning Herald caught in Crikey crossfire as letter to Lachlan Murdoch pushed back | Amanda Meade


As Lachlan Murdoch filed a libel suit against Private Media’s Crikey this week, a third outlet has been caught in the crossfire.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s report 10 days earlier about the legal letters that had been exchanged between the News Corp co-chairman and the independent news site figured heavily in Murdoch’s 40-page statement.

“Several media sources, who requested anonymity to speak freely on the matter, said Lachlan Murdoch had issued a notice of concern and sent several legal letters to Crikey since June,” SMH reported on Aug. 14.

In the writ filed in federal court on Tuesday, Murdoch’s attorneys allege that Crikey editor Peter Fray or Crikey political editor Bernard Keane or their attorney spoke to the Herald and that they were “seeking to let it be known that Murdoch had complained about its content”.

This was all “part of a scheme to give Private Media, Keane and/or Fray an excuse to, among other things, criticize and harm Murdoch,” according to the statement. Private Media has yet to file a defense, but has launched a GoFundMe to raise $3 million for legal costs.

Behind the scenes, the SMH and its sister paper, the Age, were again reluctantly dragged into the legal case when the newspapers refused to accept a paid advertisement from Crikey in the form of an open letter to Murdoch daring him to take legal action against him. . The letter was eventually published in The New York Times and The Canberra Times.

“We await your subpoena so that we can test this important issue of freedom of public interest journalism in a courtroom,” the letter said a day before the subpoena was served.

When Nine rejected the ad, Fray told trade publication Mumbrella it was because they were a competitor and “they didn’t want to upset Lachlan Murdoch or the Murdochs”, a claim Nine denied. The ad was rejected by metropolitan dailies because Crikey is a competitor for subscriptions, sources told Weekly Beast. The ad could have been published in the Australian Financial Review, which is not a direct competitor.

Readers of The Age may have been surprised to read that the small independent website employed “some 40 journalists”, in an analysis piece by chief reporter Chip Le Grand, which brushed aside Keane’s article as “an opinion piece that offered none of the unique insights”.

While Private Media employs 40 reporters across its multiple websites, Crikey has just 11 reporters, including production staff, Fray confirmed.

Inflated ideas

With commercial networks increasingly relying on competition-style reality shows such as The Block and Lego Masters to fill their schedules, they must continue to deliver new varieties of the winning format.

Seven announced this week that a Dutch format created by Endemol Shine, Blow Up, will go into production next month. The show features “balloon experts” who inflate balloons to create large sculptures. Co-host Stephen Curry broached the idea this week, telling the Herald Sun it’s not about “balloon animals and pirate swords”. “This is a high quality large scale balloon sculpture,” he said.

Channel Seven announces another competition-style reality show – this time with balloons. Photography: Channel 7

Will the balls go the way of Holey Moley, the 2020 mini-golf format starring Greg Norman that ultimately wasn’t as popular as Seven had hoped and wasn’t renewed?

Prize fight

The Guardian revealed in June that the reason the Judith Neilson Institute blew up was the management’s plans for a “massive vanity project” in the form of a $10 million international prize for ideas.

Sources said the award was the last straw for the billionaire philanthropist and that she lost faith in the institute’s former executive director Mark Ryan, who has since stepped down.

The Australian Financial Review confirmed in an interview with Neilson on Friday that the $10m-a-year price tag was at the heart of the dispute.

“I was told that I had to give 50 million dollars for this project which has nothing to do with journalism,” Neilson told AFR. “And if I didn’t give it, my credibility in town would be lost.”

Neilson told AFR that she “never intervened” in the institute and only visited the office twice, but advised management to “leave China and the climate change to qualified persons”.

“I had no idea what they did,” she said. “Other than having parties. They don’t have a journalist, but they have three people for the events!

Judith Neilson looks at Jinshi Zhu's The Ship Of Time which contains myriad sheets of xuan (rice) paper, pieces of fine bamboo and cotton threads during a preview of the exhibition A Fairy Tale in Red Times: Works from the White Rabbit Collection at NGV International
Judith Neilson told the Australian Financial Review that a $10 million-a-year award was at the heart of her dispute with the institute’s management. Photography: Scott Barbour/Getty Images for the NGV

Professor’s Pet Finale

One of the most intriguing stories in the media, first hinted at on Australia’s Hedley Thomas’ Teacher’s Pet podcast, will come to a close next week when a verdict is delivered in the ex-teacher’s murder trial of Sydney, Chris Dawson. Thomas won a Gold Walkley for the podcast, but it was taken offline when Dawson was charged.

Judge Ian Harrison, who heard the trial without a jury, will deliver his judgment on August 30.

The Crown alleged during the trial that the former Newtown Jets player killed his wife, Lyn Dawson, and disposed of her body on or about January 8, 1982. Dawson pleaded not guilty and his attorneys told the court the charge was “absurd”. .

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Pay a claim on profits

It was good news for Nine Entertainment on Thursday when they reported a 35% increase in profit to $315 million, driven by subscription growth and a buoyant advertising market. But it was also a terrible moment.

Reporters from the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, the Australian Financial Review, the Brisbane Times and WA Today are in tense negotiations for a new corporate deal with Nine and are sensitive to the latest offer which, at 3.5%, is lower than the current rate of inflation.

More than 82% of Nine’s Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) members voted “yes” in a ballot to take protected industrial action on their demands.

MEAA media section director Adam Portelli said despite receiving millions from Google and Facebook under the news media trading code, management had offered less than half of the annual raise of the cost of living.

“After this outstanding result today, it is time that these benefits are shared in the form of a fair salary increase with the journalists whose work delivered them,” said Portelli.

Union members are also calling for a commitment to diversity in newsroom employment and formal recognition of the editorial independence charter in the new deal.

Bolt champions Yemini’s cause

Far-right figure Avi Yemini has been refused entry to New Zealand due to a criminal conviction for throwing a cutting board at his ex-wife.

But the Rebel News personality, who describes himself as a journalist but apparently struggles to spell the word, blamed an online article for the ban.

A screenshot of a tweet from Avi Yemeni saying he was denied entry to New Zealand.  In the post, he misspells journalist
‘Reporter’ Avi Yemeni complained in a tweet about not being allowed to enter New Zealand, but forgot to use the spell checker. Photo: Twitter/ Yemeni Avi

Sky News Australia’s Andrew Bolt made it a free speech issue and invited Yemini on his show, prompting him to thank Bolt for “having the courage to stand up to the crowd”.

Icy relationships

Perth media relish a spat between 60 Minutes journalist Liam Bartlett, who also hosts a radio show on Perth’s 6PR, and the local council, over his request that a housing estate use frosted glass on its balconies so that he doesn’t have to see their laundry.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t like looking at people’s balconies and their bikes and their laundry or whatever they want to put on their balcony or what they’re doing behind their balcony,” Bartlett says.

6PR radio host Liam Bartlett has scored a victory in his battle against neighbors having clear glass on their balconies – while sensationally insisting he is ‘not Genghis Khan’.

— Western Australia (@westaustralian) August 24, 2022

“I don’t understand why we paid rates for 29 years at this property. The first I hear of this is an email saying the administration recommended it.

The Western Australian mocked Bartlett as a nimby, prompting the TV reporter to defend himself at a council meeting: “Despite the best efforts of some of our commercial media competitors to paint me as a cross between Genghis Khan and Thurston Howell III, I’m actually here as a private owner.


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