The Daily Mail called it “the biggest story in Australia on Thursday” and the News Corp tabloids agreed, serving up salacious front pages that editors of a scandal sheet can be proud of. The cricket-themed headlines “Hit for Sex”, “Sex and Out” and “Slapped for Sex” led the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail papers in the morning and the websites throughout the day.
What was the story the Daily Mail was so excited about that it even chastised the ABC and Channel Nine for not covering it? “The story has been lapped up by Channel Seven, almost all Australian news websites and even a handful of international outlets, including the New York Post – but there has been radio silence from Channel Nine and the ABC,” the Mail said. For the record, the Guardian ignored it as well, until now.
It was a shirtless Michael Clarke, captured on video in a public altercation with his girlfriend Jade Yarbrough. A distressed Yarbrough slapped the former Australian cricket captain and repeatedly accused him of cheating on her with an ex-girlfriend. The Tele got its hands on the grainy footage filmed earlier this month at night in a park in Noosa – but the audio was clear and very spicy. What made it tabloid gold was the presence of Karl Stefanovic, who is Jade’s brother-in-law, and a mate of Clarke’s. The Today co-host was holidaying with the couple and was drawn into the melee. As one Tele reporter told Weekly Beast: “It is the best tabloid story since James Packer and David Gyngell had a fistfight in Bondi.”
The papers lapped it up, even carrying a QR code so readers could access the footage easily, and across four full pages inside they published transcripts of the audio and back stories on Clarke’s romantic history. Nine may have avoided the yarn but rival Seven breakfast show Sunrise was all over the story.
Ever the professional, Stefanovic fronted Today as if nothing had happened with his new on-air partner, Sarah Abo, dodged paparazzi at the airport and flew to Melbourne for a media meet and greet before hosting Today from the Australian Open. He mingled with journalists at Rod Laver Arena but Channel Nine minders ensured any video discussion was off limits.
“It also hasn’t been mentioned on any of Nine’s websites, despite being a huge traffic opportunity,” the Mail thundered. “While Nine’s reason for ignoring the story is obvious – its golden boy Stefanovic is involved – news bosses at the ABC probably believed it was simply too low-brow for their viewers.”
Nine Radio 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley was quoted in a Tele article, however, headed “Australia reacts to Michael Clarke and Karl Stefanovic’s wild public showdown”, saying “If I were to give advice to a 41-year-old male adult, who I don’t know ... it would be along the lines of keep it in your pants, son”; while entertainment reporter Peter Ford described the park scene as “like a scene from Housos”.
While Channel Nine gave it a wide berth, Nine’s publishing arm carried a story in the morning without bylines. Later the chief sports reporter, Andrew Webster, defended Clarke, and admitted he had spoken to him the night after the incident and nothing seemed awry.
“He isn’t a terrible guy, just terribly flawed like the rest of us, constantly looking for love in all the wrong places. Like all professional sportspeople, he seems to struggle with life in retirement.”
The Tele reportedly bought the footage for $10,000 and Clarke was unaware someone had filmed him until a reporter contacted him for comment a week after the incident.
The editor of the Telegraph, Ben English, did not respond to a request for comment.
Most media organisations reacted to Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation by noting the New Zealand prime minister’s two historic terms during which she handled the nation’s worst terrorist attack and a pandemic while being the world’s youngest serving female leader and one of only two women to give birth while in office.
Not the Australian, whose front-page headline on Friday read “Empty end for ‘saint’ of left”. Foreign editor Greg Sheridan said Ardern’s handling of Covid “made Dan Andrews look like a Milton Friedman/Ayn Rand libertarian”. She was “a flop” and “a dreadful prime minister” and “a perfect princess of woke”, he added.
“All her economic instincts were bad, all her strategic instincts were bad. She had a great desire to undo productive economic reform and remove or shut down the engines of economic growth for what should be a nation of limitless opportunity.”
You wouldn’t think it could get any worse than Sheridan’s assessment. But Fox News’s Tucker Carlson managed to be even more insulting, referring to her as “the lady with the big teeth” and a “Chinese puppet”.
“And some rare good news: The appalling prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern – that’s the lady with the big teeth who tormented her citizens – has just announced she is leaving office,” he said.
“What are the chances she was a puppet of the Chinese government? We don’t have enough evidence to prove that, but we would rate that as about 100% likely.”
ABC cleared over Deves story
The media watchdog has cleared the ABC of misleading viewers in a story broadcast in April about the federal election campaign and the failed Liberal candidate for Warringah, Katherine Deves.
It was a welcome relief for Aunty, still smarting from a ruling that a Four Corners two-part documentary on Fox News and the 2020 US election breached the accuracy and fair dealing requirements.
In the 7pm bulletin the ABC reporter referred to Deves’ apology for a social media post about trans prisoners, reading out the tweet in part and showing it in full on screen: “Half of all males with trans identities are sex offenders, compared with less than 20% for the rest of the male estate. That should tell you something.”
The complaint said not reading the tweet in full was likely to mislead ABC viewers to think that Deves was speaking about all trans-identified males, not just trans-identified male prisoners. The Australian Communications and Media Authority disagreed and dismissed the complaint.
The Age’s news editor, Patrick Elligett, has been named editor following the resignation last month of Gay Alcorn who stepped down to care for her husband as he battles a serious health problem.
Elligett served as world editor for the Nine Entertainment title before becoming news editor in 2020 but has had a relatively short career at the Age, joining in 2019 from the New Daily, where he was editor-in-chief. The rest of his career was spent in regional journalism.
The executive editor of the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, Tory Maguire, said it was a competitive field of candidates.
“Patrick laid out a highly strategic, clear-eyed and bold plan for growing the Age’s audience and subscriber base while also boosting the masthead’s role in leading the big conversations in Melbourne, Victoria and the nation,” Maguire said.
Sky’s the limit
Sky News Australia is starting 2023 with a rebrand, championing the “free thinkers” on the Sky After Dark line-up of Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Paul Murray.
The new line-up follows the embarrassing exit of two presenters last year. Chris Smith was sacked after alleged drunken treatment of women at a Sydney venue after a Sky News Christmas party and Peter Gleeson lost his gig after repeated revelations of plagiarism, which he said in an apology was unintentional.
Sharri Markson will front a new show at 5pm Monday to Thursday time slot, with stablemate Chris Kenny moving to 8pm Monday to Thursday.
Sky has picked up former Queensland senator Amanda Stoker to host a new weekly discussion program, Sunday with Stoker, at 7pm.
The news channel claims its online audience has surged and it is now the country’s most engaging news brand on the internet.