After months of a “claustrophobic” lockdown under a “crazy government”, News Corp star columnist and broadcaster Andrew Bolt has sold his $2.8m four-bedroom federation home in Melbourne and is heading for the “bush” where the “wide sky” will allow him to “dream I’m free”.
It’s been a long goodbye for Bolt, who said back in August he was “leaving the madhouse of Melbourne” but assured his fans he would continue to deliver his nightly Sky News sermon against the left from a purpose-built home studio.
“I felt threatened by how eagerly so many Melburnians accepted home imprisonment and looked for people to dob in,” Bolt wrote in his farewell to Melbourne column in the Herald Sun.
Andrew Bolt leaving 'Melbourne' and going to the Mornington Peninsula feels like when your kid tells you they're running away forever and you find them in the garden behind a tree with a packet of chips and a backpack.
— David Lo Pun-ch Nazis (@helpmeskeletor) December 2, 2020
But his goodbye letter soon led to much mirth when it became clear the columnist wasn’t leaving Melbourne at all but just shifting from Malvern east to the Mornington Peninsula, which is part of greater Melbourne and was subject to the same lockdown rules as the city.
There was an ugly side to Bolt’s lament about the Victorian capital, with coded references to “newcomers crowding the city” with whom he “barely shares a language” and of immigrants who “no longer feel the pressure to integrate”.
Melbourne had no sense of community now that health warnings had to be translated into 53 languages – and even then those born overseas “were twice as likely as those born here to get sick”, Bolt said. “And have you noticed how brutal Melbourne has become? More gangs, more street violence, more home invasions.”
Alan Kohler moves to the New Daily
The ABC’s finance guy, Alan Kohler, has written his last column for the Australian, a paper he has worked for four times spanning a period back to 1970.
Kohler, whose nightly book pile in his home studio has become a highlight of ABC TV news, will start writing a regular column for the New Daily in January and continue with Aunty.
TND might have lost Walkley award-winning journo Samantha Maiden to news.com.au, but Kohler’s stablemates include fellow media veterans Paul Bongiorno, Michael Pascoe, Dennis Atkins, Madonna King, Quentin Dempster and Kirstie Clements.
Kevin Rudd: This isn’t about me or Turnbull
Kevin Rudd says a rare town hall meeting at News Corp’s Holt St headquarters is an indication the Murdoch empire is panicking about the prospect of a royal commission.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Australian editor Michelle Gunn, the Daily Telegraph editor Ben English and Sky News boss Paul Whittaker told a staff meeting that Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull were hypocrites for complaining about their treatment at the hands of the Murdoch press.
“The point I’m making there is that politicians are very slow to acknowledge the positive and supportive headlines, of which there were many in all our papers, but of course they are very quick to complain about any headline they disagree with,” Whittaker reportedly said.
Is anybody else getting a whiff of #MurdochsPetitionPanic? A special meeting of Murdoch editors to spell out their strategy to avoid answering for their conduct before a Royal Commission. https://t.co/E4RqHhlJ3e
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) December 3, 2020
“Straight from the Murdoch playbook,” Rudd responded on Twitter. “They know they can’t win the argument, so they frame it around a couple of individuals and try to demolish them personally. But this isn’t about me or Turnbull — it’s about Australians demanding fairness, accuracy and diversity in their news.”
Annika Smethurst joins the Age
The journalist whose home was raided by Australian federal police last year, Annika Smethurst, starts a new job at the Age next year, a significant hire by new editor Gay Alcorn.
The AFP raided the home of the former national political editor at News Corp Australia seeking information about the publication of classified material, shortly followed by a raid on the ABC headquarters over reporting of alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.
The raids triggered widespread backlash and a press freedom campaign that has resulted in assurances journalists will not be prosecuted without the attorney general’s consent.
The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald have also appointed chief sports reporter Chris Barrett as South-east Asian correspondent. The appointment of Barrett takes to four the number of male foreign correspondents at the Nine newspapers: Bevan Shields, Eryk Bagshaw and Matthew Knott. More than a year ago, when the papers had four male correspondents, including James Massola, national editor Tory Maguire and group executive editor James Chessell committed to address the gender imbalance by providing “feedback and support” to people who want to work overseas in the future to give them a better chance of landing the gig. Looks like it didn’t help any female candidates this time.
Facebook and Google ‘trying to free-ride’, says Stiglitz
The treasurer’s proposed mandatory news code, which will be tabled in parliament within days, has been endorsed by Nobel prize laureate Prof Joseph Stiglitz. Stiglitz told a webinar hosted by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology that Google and Facebook have too much political power, invade privacy and spread misinformation about Covid-19.
“We now have seen the utter failure of self-regulation, and that means we have to go on to what’s next,” Stiglitz said. “And that’s where what you’re doing in Australia is so important. You’re one of the beginnings of the exploration of what’s next.”
Stiglitz went so far as to suggest nationalising them or creating a “public alternative platform”.
“Facebook and Google are trying to free-ride: it suits them to let someone else pay for the production of news while they reap most of the advertising revenue,” he said.
Australia trying to make @Google and @Facebook pay their fair share for news they display by taking aim at market power rather than intellectual property rights. This is important. My op-ed, with my wife @anyaSIPA, in @ftopinion today: https://t.co/I2hossISJR
— Joseph E. Stiglitz (@JosephEStiglitz) December 2, 2020
“This is not viable: without funding for quality journalism, misinformation, disinformation and low-quality journalism will prevail. Our society will be worse off.
“There is an enormous imbalance of economic power between the tech giants and even the largest enterprises in conventional media. Media’s bargaining stance is further weakened because once news is produced, the marginal cost of reusing it is zero. This is not a free and competitive market.”
ACM won’t honour Fairfax copyright deal
Journalists at Antony Catalano’s Australian Community Media (ACM) have been given some bad news right before Christmas.
A copyright deal they enjoyed while employed by Rural Press, which, under Fairfax media, saw a small amount of cash deposited into their pay packets, will no longer be honoured by the new owners.
“I have some disappointing news regarding the copyright payment that many of you have come to expect at this time of year,” editorial director Rod Quinn told them.
“I am informed the obligations of the original agreement are no longer applicable for ACM since the sale away from Nine. So this will be the first full financial year of the new ownership that this applies to. In short, under these terms don’t expect any payment this year. Any questions, please ask and I will endeavour to get you answers.”
Country Hour turns 75
Australia’s first rural radio program, the Country Hour, celebrated its 75th birthday on Thursday. The program first went to air on 3 December 1945, with daily information about the business of farming, agriculture and mining and how it impacts every part of our lives.
I am so incredibly proud to be part of the Country Hour, I've been in its employ for over 16 years. Together with @AmyEPhillips5 we have the privilege of being a small part of its continued history every weekday. #ABCRural75 https://t.co/6KeLCivGPK
— Arlie Felton-Taylor (@afeltontaylor) December 3, 2020
It started on the radio, but has since expanded to include a network of specialist rural reporters filing reports to TV, social media and online.
“In 1945, postwar Australia needed a way to communicate farming information to a generation of new farmers, many who were soldier settlers that had been sent to the country to make a new life,” the ABC reported.
ABC managing director David Anderson has promised if the broadcaster gets additional revenue from being included in the mandatory news code, it will go towards regional journalism.
“This potentially will provide a major boost to coverage of regional and rural Australia, telling local stories and celebrating unique Australian stories,” he said last week. “This is particularly important at a time when there has been a diminution and withdrawal of some local media.”
Australian gives coal eight pages
Readers of the Australian could be forgiven for wondering why there were so many positive articles about coal in Friday’s paper. From page 25, the News Corp paper ran eight full pages of articles and ads about coal.
“Australia has a large vested interest in the health of the coal market,” the lead article said. The only indication it may have been paid content were the words “Australian Coal Special Report” on the first page. We’ve asked the Australian to clarify if it was editorial or advertorial.