Crikey kicks off fortnight of apologising to Lachlan Murdoch and Christine Holgate | The Weekly Beast

Online publisher launches two front-page apologies for serious mistake in Stephen Mayne column. Plus: News Corp top brass at SMH birthday bash

Front-page apologies and corrections are rare. Apologies are usually relegated to page two of a newspaper and relatively hidden on a news website.

In 2015, the Age famously apologised to Melbourne’s Abu Bakar Alam on the front page after using his Facebook photo to illustrate a page-one story on Numan Haider, the Melbourne teenager who was shot dead by police after attacking an officer with a knife.

Lachlan Murdoch and Christine Holgate
Lachlan Murdoch and Christine Holgate. Composite: Stephanie Keith/Mike Bowers/Getty/Guardian

But this week Crikey has gone even further, publishing two front-page apologies – to Lachlan Murdoch and Christine Holgate – on one day. And that’s not all. So serious were the mistakes Crikey has agreed to keep the apologies to Murdoch and Holgate on the homepage for 14 days.

All social media posts and stories have been deleted and Stephen Mayne has apologised on his Twitter account.

“On 15 April 2021, Crikey published an article by Mr Mayne titled ‘Forget Australia Post. Here’s the real reason to attack Christine Holgate’,” the apology reads. “That article made certain claims about Mr Lachlan Murdoch’s tenure as a board member of Ten Network Holdings. Crikey and Mr Mayne accept that those claims were false and defamatory of Mr Murdoch. Crikey and Mr Mayne unconditionally withdraw those claims and apologise to Mr Murdoch for the hurt and offence caused to him by reason of that publication.”

The apology to Holgate is similar.

Crikey published a since deleted article by Stephen Mayne on April 15 titled “Forget Australia Post. Here’s the real reason to attack Christine Holgate”, which was accompanied by a cartoon. The article made certain claims about ... 1/2

— Stephen Mayne (@MayneReport) April 22, 2021

Crikey’s editor-in-chief, Peter Fray, told Weekly Beast the publication made a series of mistakes in the article and had agreed to “keep the current apology on the homepage for 14 days”.

“We compensated Mr Murdoch and Ms Holgate for their legal costs,” Fray said. “The total sum was $14,000. As Mr Mayne notes, this was his first stuff-up in 16 years of contributing to Crikey, which, of course, he founded 21 years ago. As editor-in-chief of Crikey, I am responsible for what is published on the site. Crikey will continue to be an independent, fearless and Australian-owned voice of journalism.”

Mayne was forced to sell his house in 2001 after he was sued by radio presenter Steve Price, who he eventually paid $50,000.

Sims schools NYT writer

New York Times columnist Ben Smith took on the wrong person when he suggested competition tsar Rod Sims might be a “Rupert Murdoch minion”.

Sims chairs the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which proposed a news media bargaining code to ensure that publishers are fairly remunerated by the tech giants for journalism.

On an international panel discussion about making Google and Facebook pay for news, the NYT media columnist said he understood the Australian law was “driven largely by News Corp”.

“Is that accurate,” Smith asked Sims. “Are you basically a Rupert Murdoch minion?”

Sims said while News Corp (along with Guardian Australia and everyone else) backed the bargaining code, Murdoch did not come up with the idea . News’ original proposal was for an algorithm board and was roundly rejected, he said. The idea that News Corp was bullying Google was absurd: “It’s just wrong in fact.”

WATCH NOW After Google and Facebook: The Future of Journalism and Democracy

— Open Markets Institute (@openmarkets) April 20, 2021

“We [the ACCC] came up with this idea, and Google’s whole response was, ‘This is big business taking over the internet’,” Sims said. “They played into the Murdoch line, they ran that very strongly.

“I did point out that News Corp internationally is about 1% of Google. Say what you like about the Murdoch empire – go for it – the idea of Google saying ‘they’re big business and we’re the little guy’… Google’s 100 times bigger. No, I don’t think it is right, to answer the question.”

Larger than life

The Canberra press gallery is always alert to a breaking story and last week they got twitchy when they saw press conferences spring up in and around Parliament House that they had not been alerted to.

Some journos and political staffers grabbed their gear and ran down to see what was happening only to discover the “politicians” being door-stopped were ABC TV stars Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths and the media scrum was made up of actors.

Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths in series 2 of Total Control.
Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths in series 2 of Total Control. Photograph: Supplied

Mailman and Griffiths were reprising their award-winning roles in Total Control, a drama about the corridors of power directed by Wayne Blair.

The ABC’s head of drama, entertainment and Indigenous content, Sally Riley, told Weekly Beast the filming of four scenes in Parliament House were interrupted by confused political journos last week, breathlessly asking what was the conference about.

Riley was unveiling a raft of fresh content for ABC and iview this year, much of it interrupted by Covid-19 restrictions.

Still coming are: a new eight-part crime drama, Troppo, starring American actor Thomas Jane; another eight-part drama, Barons, about surfers who build a clothing empire; and Marc Fennell hosting a documentary, The School That Tried to End Racism, about primary schoolchildren in Sydney’s western suburbs.

Surprise guests at SMH party

The Sydney Morning Herald held a 190th birthday party at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday night to celebrate the extraordinary achievement of being in print since 1831. There were grumbles from the troops on the newsroom floor who told Weekly Beast the guest list was dominated by dignitaries, advertisers and Sydney power brokers rather than Herald journalists.

The paper with a proud journalistic heritage is now part of the giant Nine Entertainment group, chaired by former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello, so Channel Nine stars including Brooke Boney and Allison Langdon did make the cut.

There were some print journalists invited, of course, many of whom have worked for the Herald for decades, such as Kate McClymont, Andrew Hornery and Helen Pitt, but there were far more politicians and what management called “stakeholders”: former prime minister John Howard, New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian, former Labor premier Bob Carr, Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron, Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, businessman Justin Hemmes, billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, former lord mayor Lucy Turnbull, chef Matt Moran and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo to name a few.

But it was the presence of News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and his loyal Australian executives Michael Miller, Nicholas Gray and Campbell Reid that was the biggest surprise.

Great to see so many loyal readers of the @smh last night - including Lachlan Murdoch! Was like the Capulets came to the Montagues’ house party - but no tears or blood letting.

— Sir Hornbag (@hornery) April 22, 2021

The company offered an explanation of sorts in its report on the event, saying the presence of the Murdoch trio at the “Independent. Always” shindig was due to the “more collegiate” attitude between News Corp and Nine Entertainment as the publishers battle the “digital threat towering over the modern media landscape”.

Nine’s chief digital and publishing officer, Chris Janz, told the crowd there were few mastheads around the world producing their best journalism in this era of digital disruption but “the Herald’s impact is stronger today than at any point in the past two centuries”.

SMH editor Lisa Davies told Beast numbers were limited and a big staff party would be held next month.

Gittins’ genial jibe goes

One of the SMH’s most treasured veterans is economics editor Ross Gittins, who, as the Herald’s longest-serving staff member, wrote a personal reflection about the anniversary on Monday.

“I suspect that by now I’m actually addicted to column-writing and to staying one of the Herald’s roosters rather than one of its many feather-dusters,” he wrote in the first version which was published online. “When my designated retirement date arrived, I had no desire to hang up my boots and luxuriate on the Herald’s more-than-generous super scheme. And – apart from Jessica Irvine – detected no desire by my colleagues to wave me off.

Aaaaaaand we’re off! Fairfax budget bus 2018 has hit the road. Canberra here we come.... #budget2018 @1RossGittins

— Jessica Irvine (@Jess_Irvine) May 7, 2018

“But I promise you (and Jessica) this: I’ll be out of here the moment I find I’ve worn out my welcome with our readers or my bosses, or realise I’m starting to lose my marbles.”

Some readers thought the jibe about Irvine, the paper’s senior economics writer, was serious and the editors removed the references. But we can assure you Gittins and Irvine are best of friends and the faux rivalry is an ongoing joke.

State of play

Hopes were high this week that Sydney’s Hollywood hotel could remain in the hands of Australian show biz royalty after the Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe was spotted touring the Surry Hills pub.

The Hollywood was recently listed for sale for the first time in 42 years following the 2019 death of its long-time owner, Doris Goddard, 89, whose career in Hollywood as an actress and cabaret performer included a bit part opposite Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope in The Iron Petticoat.

A signature Sydney institution famous for its rowdy atmosphere and unreconstructed decor, news that the hotel had been placed on the market was greeted with a howl of protest from its many fans.

Indeed, some Twitter users were calling for Crowe to “save” the pub when news of its impending sale broke this week. So it is understandable the sight of the Hollywood star touring the pub with its current licensee on Thursday afternoon sent the rumour mill into overdrive.

The pub is also a favourite watering hole for Sydney’s journalists, so it is unsurprising that Crowe’s tour didn’t stay a secret.

When contacted by the Guardian on Friday though, representatives for the actor were quick to pour cold water on the prospect of Crowe serenading patrons in the front bar as Goddard was famous for doing.

While Crowe did have a poke around, he apparently has no interest in buying.

with Michael McGowan


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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