News Corp ends year on a low note as another senior figure investigated over alleged behaviour at staff drinks | The Weekly Beast

The Murdoch stable has let indiscretions slide in the past but there is less tolerance now. Plus: Nine returns to AAP

Just as News Corp Australia was licking its wounds after terminating three big name journalists for allegedly behaving badly, another scandal has broken.

The Australian’s editor-in-chief Christopher Dore, the Courier Mail columnist Peter Gleeson and the Sky News commentator Chris Smith were all terminated by the News Corp empire within weeks of each other.

Now, a senior figure at the Australian is under investigation after staff drinks at a Surry Hills pub last week.

“A thorough investigation is under way after complaints were made following an informal end-of-year function,” a News Corp Australia spokesperson said.

“No conclusion has yet been reached and our priority is for the fair treatment and wellbeing of all those involved.”

This year has been memorable because the Murdoch stable has previously let indiscretions slide in the name of keeping loyal lieutenants inside the tent, rather than terminating people one after another. Drunken behaviour has certainly been tolerated in years past, as have accusations of slapping a candidate and even pissing in the sink.

But after the #MeToo movement and the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal there is less tolerance for what News Corp Australasia’s chief executive Michael Miller called “bad choices”.

“Remember that inappropriate behaviour has consequences,” Miller said in an email to all staff after the incident this week. “We have all earned the right to celebrate with friends and workmates, and I urge you to make this occasion to remember and not regret.”

Unfortunately for Smith, a Sky After Dark presenter, the warning came too late. Smith was sacked by both News and 2GB after drunkenly mistreating female colleagues at a Sky staff party last weekend. It came 24 years after he was sacked by Nine for exposing himself in the boardroom.

Chris Smith has also lost his job as a cruise ship celebrity host.
Chris Smith has also lost his job as a cruise ship celebrity host. Photograph: Supplied by SkyNews

Smith has not only lost his two main media gigs but the Weekly Beast can confirm he has been dumped by Travelrite International as a cruise ship celebrity host.

The broadcaster was to lead a 16-night, $10,000-a-head cruise of the medieval cities of the Mediterranean next year, but Travelrite director Simon Wallis told the Weekly Beast he is talking to 2GB about a “replacement leader” after the revelations. Listed as a highlight of the cruise was: “Chris will host a talk about his life in the media.” I guess the less said about his media career the better.

Smith apologised on Monday for his “humiliating” behaviour, citing alcoholism and mental health struggles for his inappropriate conduct.

Bad news

There appears to be no end to the terrible takes in News Corp publications though. In the Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt commented on Brittany Higgins settling her personal injury claim against the commonwealth. The piece is so insensitive it is not worth repeating but Bolt wrote that Higgins’s allegations of rape showed there was a “fast way to becoming a multi-millionaire”.

Then there was the questionable coverage about the Queensland shooting of two young police officers and a neighbour. The Daily Telegraph described Nathaniel Train as a dedicated school principal whose disenchantment with the education system “somehow led him to become a murderer”.

Nathaniel Train was a ‘dedicated’ NSW principal - but a heart attack at school, deteriorating mental health and growing unhappiness with the education system somehow led him to become a murderer ➡️

— The Daily Telegraph (@dailytelegraph) December 13, 2022

Nine returns to the AAP fold

Nine Entertainment has signed a new contract with Australian Associated Press for a two-year print and text deal, the Weekly Beast can reveal.

After an initial six-month trial earlier this year, which was seen as an insurance policy for Nine should its journalists go on strike, publisher James Chessell has inked a long-term deal with the newswire.

The new contract will see the wire agency service the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, the Australian Financial Review, the Brisbane Times, WAtoday and It comes almost three years after Nine – along with co-majority shareholder News Corp – closed the newswire service.

In mid-2020 a group of philanthropists saved the 86-year-old service from closure after Nine and News pulled out. AAP provides content to hundreds of newspapers, websites, TV channels and radio stations.

It’s a good result for AAP chief executive Lisa Davies, a former editor of the Sydney Morning Herald who took over management of AAP this year.

The Australian loses another editor

Just weeks after Dore’s exit from the Australian, business editor Kylar Loussikian has been poached by Nine Entertainment to be deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.

Loussikian has jumped back and forth between the rival media groups in recent years after starting at News Corp in 2014. He will return to Nine two-and-a-half years after he left his role as CBD columnist at the Herald to be chief of staff for the Australian in May 2020.

He joins the recently appointed AFR editor Fiona Buffini under editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury.

Loussikian was a co-winner of a Walkley award in 2018 for Bundle of Joyce, with former Daily Telegraph colleagues Sharri Markson and Dore.

Underwear renegades

When it comes to self-regulation of the advertising industry, Ad Standards has had its battles with luxury lingerie retailer Honey Birdette, which has had more than 20 breaches for its imagery.

Pin-up perfection with a wintry twist! The glamourous new MARILYN glistens and gleams in ivory and gold. #honeybirdette

— Honey Birdette (@HoneyBirdette) December 13, 2022

This year alone has seen Honey Birdette breach the AANA Code of Ethics seven times, and Ad Standards has denounced the lingerie store for repeated non-compliance.

“As has become custom for Honey Birdette, it did not provide a response to the complaints, nor the determination of the Ad Standards Community Panel, which ultimately found ‘the advertisement did not treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant broad audience and did breach Section 2.4 of the Code’,” the committee said.

An Ad Standards spokesperson told trade publication Mumbrella that while most advertisers remove or modify the offending, Honey Birdette chooses not to comply – and there is nothing to be done because they control the advertising medium via their shop fronts.

“We refute that our advertising is ‘porn-inspired’, and do not believe that a reasonable person could seriously compare our images to pornography,” the company said in May.

“The complainant again takes issue with our model’s mouth being open, and suggests that they present as though ‘engaged in sexual activity’. Our model is riding a mechanical bull in the context of our Western-themed lingerie campaign, and is obviously not engaged in sexual activity.”

Crikey v Murdoch showdown

On Wednesday the parties in the Lachlan Murdoch v Crikey case will meet for a day-long court-ordered mediation in the federal court in an attempt to avoid a trial.

Murdoch launched defamation proceedings in August against the independent news site over an article published in June that named the Murdoch family as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the US Capitol attack.

On Thursday or Friday they will return to court to tell justice Michael Wigney if they’ve been successful. If the confidential pre-Christmas mediation is not successful a date has been set down in March for the trial.


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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