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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Amanda Meade

Rupert Murdoch eases into retirement as Lachlan takes up baton of ‘philosophical integrity’

Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch in New York.
Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, who has been welcomed as sole chair of News Corp. Photograph: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

News Corp will “stand on the shoulders of a giant” when Rupert Murdoch transitions to “chairman emeritus” next week, the company’s chief executive, Robert Thomson, told its fiscal first-quarter earnings call on Friday as he welcomed Lachlan Murdoch as sole chair.

“His thoughtful engagement with our teams already enhances the business each working day and his passion for principled journalism is obvious to all who work with him,” Thomson said. “There is no doubt that Lachlan’s multidisciplinary expertise and his philosophical integrity will be invaluable as we continue to the next phase of our crucial journey.”

Earlier in the week Lachlan Murdoch used his speech to the troops at the annual News Awards to outline just what his philosophical approach is all about.

He called on journalists and editors to be courageous in addressing the “distressing events such as the horrific October 7th terror attack on Israel”.

“When it comes to antisemitism there is no room for equivocation,” Murdoch told guests at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Walsh Bay. “There is no fence-sitting.

“From Brisbane to Broome, from Launceston to Lakemba, antisemitism does not belong in Australia.

“It is our duty to address and tackle it, as it is to address and tackle all forms of hatred.”

The executive, who divides his time between Sydney and the US, called for journalists to “expose the disturbing wave of hatred against Jews around the world and in our own communities”.

All praise for voice coverage

Lachlan Murdoch also made clear his dislike of the Albanese government’s proposed legislation designed to combat misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms, which has already been opposed by Sky News commentator Peta Credlin as an “assault” on freedom of speech.

“It is ironic that at a time when our country is rightly vigilant and proactive in resisting foreign interference in our politics, media and communication infrastructure, the federal government is proposing misinformation laws that will position them, the government, as the arbiter of truth,” Murdoch said.

“This comes after we learned that federal agencies, under both Coalition and Labor governments, secretly used such methods to suppress and censor debate during the pandemic.”

Murdoch praised the company’s coverage of the Indigenous voice referendum, claiming News Corp “provided more context, more facts and more diversity of opinion than any other media organisation”.

“Our balanced approach fairly represented the nation’s ­differing perspectives,” he said.

Personal opinions not welcome

The ABC’s head of news, Justin Stevens, addressed the Israel-Hamas war in an email to staff yesterday, telling journalists the public broadcaster was not a platform for pushing an agenda because the public expects it to be impartial.

“There are many jobs that allow you to operate from your personal convictions,” Stevens told staff in an email seen by Weekly Beast. “Journalism is not one of them. There are many media outlets whose stock in trade is partisanship, personal opinion, campaigning and trying to wield influence. The ABC is not one of those.

“To quote NBC News president Noah Oppenheim: ‘If you choose journalism as your route, you are giving up some other options that are available to the general public.’ This is especially true of the national public broadcaster.”

Stevens, who was responding to internal concerns from both Palestinian and Jewish staff about the approach taken to the war, announced a new Middle East coverage advisory panel will be meeting regularly and has established a new central point for editorial guidance on the story which will be constantly updated.

Challenging times

At Nine Entertainment’s annual general meeting on Thursday, its CEO, Mike Sneesby, also addressed the war. Sneesby, whose editorial teams include those on Nine News, 60 Minutes and the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, said the conflict was “probably one of the most challenging news stories that our teams have had to cover”.

Gleeson draws a blank

It was this time last year that Courier-Mail columnist Peter Gleeson left News Corp after multiple instances of plagiarism were uncovered and he apologised for breaching News Corp’s code of conduct. He was also sacked by Sky News.

So some Nine journalists in Queensland were somewhat astounded when the local radio station, 4BC, gave Gleeson a lifeline in June, first in a temporary role and then as the permanent 4BC Drive host.

Now Gleeson finds himself the butt of jokes at the company after he failed to recognise one of Nine’s senior journalists, Mark Burrows, when he came on the program to give an update on a repatriation flight bringing Australians home from Israel.

Gleeson, who was taking talkack calls on the cost of living, introduced the reporter as if he was a punter: “Mark Burrows has given us a buzz 13 38 82. Mark, you’ve got some thoughts?”

Burrows, on the line from Sydney airport, said: “Sorry, what is this about?

Gleeson: “I’m asking you: have you got some thoughts?

Burrows: “Regarding what?

Gleeson: “Ah, you’ve rung into 4BC. you’re on the open line.”

Burrows: “You’ve got me mixed up with somebody else, I’m sorry.”

An increasingly tetchy but still clueless Gleeson told listeners that was “interesting, very interesting” after Burrows hung up. Nine Radio told Weekly Beast that Gleeson texted Burrows to apologise when made aware of his blunder.

Burrows told Weekly Beast: “But the good thing is that I have been dining out on it ever since, and it has provided a lot of merriment in the newsroom.”

Power moves

The ABC’s yet untitled three-part documentary about the Coalition’s nine years in power – announced at the broadcaster’s TV showcase on Thursday – has got some competition.

Sky News Australia has beaten the public broadcaster and will air its own two-parter, Liberals in Power, over two nights next week. Billed as an in-depth investigation into the inner workings of the Liberal party, the program is presented by Chris Kenny.

Kenny says the doco will generate “crucial discussions”.

While former prime minister’s Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison sat down with investigative journalist Mark Willacy for in-depth interviews for the ABC documentary, the broadcaster is yet to convince Tony Abbott to agree to take part. Abbott was the only major player not to appear in the sizzle reel which was played for guests at the 2024 showcase.

ABC appointment

The ABC News executive in charge of diversity, Gavin Fang, has been appointed editorial director, responsible for setting and interpreting editorial standards.

Gavin Fang is the ABC’s new editorial director.
Gavin Fang is the ABC’s new editorial director. Photograph: Emmy Reyna

Fang replaces Judith Whelan, the former director of regional and local who was appointed but unable to take up the role.

“It is a privilege to be entrusted with a role helping to ensure the ABC remains Australia’s most trusted media organisation,” Fang said on Friday.

“Brave, accurate, fair and independent public interest journalism and storytelling, built on the bedrock of our high editorial standards, is a critical service we provide to all Australians.”

Fang has been deputy to both Stevens and his predecessor Gaven Morris, who left the position two years ago.

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