“A ban from Mrs Dan” were the words on the front page of the Australian on Thursday, pointing to a column inside that took issue with Catherine Andrews, the wife of the Victorian premier. Her sin? Blocking two News Corp journalists, Rachel Baxendale and Alex White, on Twitter.
It was no surprise to see the Murdoch press move on to the premier’s spouse after months of negative coverage of Daniel Andrews, who has been labelled Dictator Dan by his critics.
Catherine Andrews is more than Mrs Dan, she is the director of the Indigenous cultural program The Torch and a writer, editor and historian with a master’s in public history.
The lead item in Alice Workman’s Strewth column referred to her as “wife of Dictator Dan”, as well as “Mrs Dan”, and accused her of being a “mean girl” and of “standing by her man” for daring to like positive tweets about her husband.
“In the past 24 hours she’s ‘liked’ hundreds of #IStandWithDan tweets, including ones attacking journalists by name and their robust reporting,” Workman wrote.
One of those robust reporters is Baxendale, the Australian’s Victorian political reporter who wrote a front-page story in July that claimed authorities had confirmed a link between Melbourne’s Black Lives Matter protest and the Covid-19 breakout in public housing towers. The Department of Health and Human Services says there is no evidence linking the two.
Baxendale, a “gun reporter”, told Workman she found it “bizarre” she’d been blocked by Catherine when she found out “by accident”. The Murdoch troops clearly keep an eagle eye on Catherine’s social media, including once asking at a press conference about an old photograph she had posted on Instagram.
The criticism of Andrews is relentless: on Sky News, in the Herald Sun, the Australian and even Sydney’s Daily Telegraph whose headlines have included “It’s God-Dan disgraceful”, “Dan-made disaster”, “Victoria bitter” and “Bordering on madness”.
The Telegraph editor, Ben English, has called the premier a “fool” and Peta Credlin wrote of his “sheer utter incompetence” in the Herald Sun, but targeting his spouse – a private citizen – seems unconscionable.
Goodbyes at The Business
A visibly moved Elysse Morgan, host of The Business, farewelled three of her business colleagues on air on Wednesday night – another three experienced journalists leaving Aunty as a result of the Coalition’s cuts to the budget.
Reporters Phillip Lasker and Andrew Robertson and The Business executive producer, Simon West, finish up on Friday, just some of the 250 staff lost in the latest round of redundancies. Political reporter Tom Iggulden and Radio National Breakfast business editor Sheryle Bagwell also finish up this week.
In happier ABC news two major national current affairs programs, AM and PM, are leaving Canberra and Sydney. The flagship radio shows will be presented from Hobart and Bega, in south-east New South Wales, respectively.
Next month the PM host, Linda Mottram, will relocate to Bega and the AM host, Sabra Lane, is planning a January move to Hobart. The ABC is keen to locate content-making roles outside the major cities and Mottram and Lane wanted a tree change so it was a perfect fit.
Lane, who is stepping down as president of the National Press Club in Canberra, said she “fell in love with Tasmania and its glorious native forests and had a dream to move there”.
Mottram, a former foreign correspondent who is used to working all over the world, says “planting PM in a regional centre will also bring deeper understanding of rural communities and ties to their stories”.
Gay Alcorn to edit the Age
Guardian Australia’s Melbourne editor Gay Alcorn has been appointed as editor of The Age where she worked for 20 years. The three-time Walkley Award winner is the first woman to be appointed Age editor and is likely to be a popular choice with staff who recently told management they were worried about maintaining the “proud reputation and independence” of the paper.
“Every editor in the Age’s history has been a white man, as is every current foreign correspondent,” staff told group executive editor of Australian Metro Publishing, James Chessell in June in a plea for more diversity.
In the wake of the letter signed by 70 journalists the editor of the Age Alex Lavelle departed after 20 years.
Chessell said Alcorn’s editorial leadership, drive and independence of thought would help strengthen the Melbourne masthead.
“Gay is an insightful journalist with a strong sense of what is important for all Victorians,” Chessell said. “She is steeped in The Age’s proud history of agenda-setting, independent journalism and will be a strong leader of the newsroom in Melbourne.
From Brisbane to Bali
Chris Mitchell’s rise from 17-year-old rookie journalist through the ranks of the business desk to editor-in-chief of the Australian is detailed in a new book by his former partner, the journalist Deborah Cassrels.
Mitchell, whose own memoir revealed he was given a six-figure pay rise in 2012 after telling Rupert Murdoch to choose between him and the then News Corp Australia chief executive, Kim Williams, is now a media columnist at the Oz.
Gods and Demons, published by News Corp subsidiary Harper Collins, is a foreign correspondent’s memoir about covering the Indonesian island of Bali, where Cassrels has lived since 2006. But an early chapter contains nuggets about her life with Mitchell in Queensland when he was running News Corp operations in that state.
Visitors to their home included the late poet Les Murray; the late founder of the Adelaide Review (which announced its closure this week), Christopher Pearson; Tony Abbott, then parliamentary secretary to the minister for employment; and Kevin Rudd, then director general of the state cabinet office. “Rudd would hold court over a bottle of red, long after [wife] Thérèse had retired for the night,” Cassrels wrote. “It wasn’t unusual for colleagues from The Courier-Mail and the ABC to drop in after work for late-night drinks, including Chris’s protege, Paul Whittaker, or ‘Boris’, who went on to take over as The Australian’s editor-in-chief in 2016.”
Boris is of course now the chief executive at Sky News, who has presided over the transition of the pay TV channel into an Australian Fox News, peaking this year with the appointment of Alan Jones as a headline star.
Kyle & Jackie O rapped for decency breach
A year after Kyle Sandilands apologised for saying the Virgin Mary was a liar , who got pregnant behind a shed ( I paraphrase), the media watchdog has ruled the segment “overstepped the mark in terms of the generally accepted standards of decency”.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority received 180 complaints about the Kyle & Jackie O show, broadcast on KIIS 1065 in September last year, alleging that the segment was offensive and incited hatred and ridicule of Christians.
The radio station was cleared of the inciting hatred charge but found to have breached the code for decency.
“While the comments were offensive, they lacked the necessary element of likely incitement, in all the circumstances, of hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule in the audience, which is the test in the rules,” said the Acma chair, Nerida O’Loughlin.
“Australians are generally tolerant of irreverent humour and critical discussion about religion. But they would not expect a host of a broadcast program to derisively criticise people’s intelligence because of their religious beliefs.”
The consequences? Counselling for Sandilands and KIIS 1065 staff, and legal compliance training.
Opportunity for outrage
The dumbest story of the week was written by Sophie Elsworth for the News tabloids and was based on an anonymous complaint from an “Anglo female journalist aged in her 30s” who was “disappointed” when a job at the ABC she was interested in was “open only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants”.
“I got such a shock when I realised I couldn’t actually apply, because I’m a white woman,” she said adding that she wasn’t the “the right skin colour”.
The story contained quotes from the Institute of Public Affairs’s director of communications, Evan Mulholland, who said the race-specific advertisement was “outrageous”.
There is nothing unusual about jobs for minorities. The ABC, like other government employers, is required by the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987 to develop a program designed to eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunity for women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people from a non-English speaking background and people with disabilities. It’s been the law for decades.
But that small matter didn’t stop it being picked up Sky News, where Paul Murray and James Morrow were outraged. One guest, the former Labor minister Stephen Conroy, did point out that the practice was reasonable and designed to end disadvantage.
“How does this person feel who’s got the job only because they’ve got this [being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander],” Morrow said. “I think it causes a lot more problems, especially for a taxpayer body to be saying this.”