Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Amanda Meade

The Nightly: Kerry Stokes and his billionaire mates take a punt on ‘mainstream middle’ journalism

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes and the front page of the new Seven West ‘digital weeknight newspaper’ The Nightly.
Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes and the front page of the new Seven West ‘digital weeknight newspaper’ The Nightly. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

A new publication was launched this week in the form of an online afternoon newspaper. The afternoon newspaper died decades ago with the closure of Fairfax’s Sydney Sun, News Limited’s Brisbane Telegraph and Sydney’s Daily Mirror. The “digital weeknight newspaper” – that’s both a pdf and an online version – is a product we need now, we were told by publisher Seven West Media, because people are too busy to read the news in the morning: “Your ‘me time’ is now at night”.

The Nightly promises “No paywall, no clickbait – just commonsense ‘mainstream middle’ journalism”. All backed by the power and resources of Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media.

Stokes owns the West Australian, the Sunday Times, 19 regional publications, 11 suburban newspapers and free news website – which The Nightly promotional material unkindly referred to as “clickbait”.

The Nightly has something most start-ups don’t. The financial support of several billionaires – as well as Stokes – in the form of guaranteed advertising spend.

The Nightly carries ads from Mineral Resources founder Chris Ellison, Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page and mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, as well as an in-depth interview with Gerry Harvey titled “Why Gerry’s all smiles even amid ‘challenging’ sales”. The first editions are packed with display ads for Channel Seven as well as multiple mining and gambling ads. Very wholesome.

The Nightly promised in its first editorial to “fight for the mainstream middle” but the views expressed by the editor-in-chief, Anthony De Ceglie, were demonstrably to the right of centre.

De Ceglie, who is doubling up as the editor in chief of The West Australian, focused on the same targets as he does in his established newspaper: industrial relations reforms and environmentalists. He railed against “industrial relations laws that fly in the very face of economic ambition” and complained that industry is “hobbled by over-zealous environmental bodies which have been overtaken by fanatics”.

There was a good word for his financial backers too. “So much for the entrepreneurial spirit embodied by those tycoons of industry who put us on the map,” he said.

Dore and Shorten among recruits

The Nightly’s headline act – who will deliver “blisteringly readable content” – is one Christopher Dore, the former editor-in-chief of The Australian.

Dore is making his return to writing via The Nightly after he was terminated by News Corp after 31 years, allegedly after an incident at a Wall Street Journal event in California.

Once the most powerful editorial executive in Murdoch’s Australian business, Dore’s first offering was a four-part hit piece on the prime minister. Anthony Albanese, he wrote, “stunned Labor colleagues by ignoring explicit advice warning against declaring the Voice referendum a first-term priority on election night and has been ‘cursed’ by the call since”.

The copy is almost exclusively unsourced, is littered with expletives _ “It’s fucked the republic now” – and contains “quotes” attributed to Albanese himself in private, such as: “‘The whole point of the Voice was to listen to Indigenous people,’ [Albanese] would tell people, ‘we did that … we had a crack.’”

And: “‘I’ll stand up for my values,’ [Albanese] tells colleagues ‘and I’m prepared to make difficult decisions.’”

Another hire has been Kristin Shorten, an investigative reporter who joins from The Australian where she covered the trial of Zachary Rolfe for the killing of Kumanjayi Walker. Rolfe shot Walker three times while trying to arrest him in Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs. Rolfe was found not guilty in March 2022 of charges of murder and manslaughter relating to Walker’s death.

The inquest into Walker’s death heard on Wednesday that Shorten was a friend of Rolfe’s because her partner was a fellow police officer. According to texts put to Rolfe in evidence at the inquest this week, she messaged Rolfe in November 2019 asking if he was OK after the shooting and telling him, among other things, to “ignore the leftist reporting”. Shorten has not given evidence at the inquest and was approached for comment.

ABC’s critics evenly split

It will surprise no one to hear 51% of all complaints raised by the ABC audience in 2023 related to the Israel/Gaza war.

According to the ABC Ombudsman’s first annual report, 58% of complainants suggested content was pro-Israel and 41% pro-Palestine.

The report found the ABC’s coverage was “professional, wide ranging and reflective of newsworthy events”.

Ombudsman Fiona Cameron, who was appointed in late 2022 and is independent from ABC News, suggested the ABC more clearly set out whether content was analysis, opinion or lived experience.

“While complaint numbers are a useful reflection of audience engagement, often content that is uncomfortable attracts more criticism,” she said.

“The ABC needs to be mindful of this tension to avoid being fearful of delivering on charter obligations to provide innovative and comprehensive programming while being thick skinned enough to clarify and explain decisions, acknowledge
misjudgements and, where appropriate, apologise.”

Strange allies

Of all the words published about Taylor Swift’s The Eras tour last month, you can’t go past Greg Sheridan’s analysis of the “cultural meaning” of the pop star for sheer absurdity.

“I had my rock concert-going days some little time ago,” Sheridan says, before going on to compare Swift to the performers he enjoyed in the 1970s: Billy Joel, Supertramp, Lou Reed and Elton John.

The 67-year-old conservative commentator admits he struggled at first to work out what all the fuss is about because, for a start, Swift is “not the classical beauty”.

The Australian’s foreign editor prefers the “classical beauty” of a Scarlett Johansson, for example. “That’s a superficial quality for sure, but sheer physical beauty is a factor for many entertainers,” he wrote in a piece headlined “Why Taylor Swift’s niceness and joy confounds the progressive left”.

Which brings us to his other point in the 1,200-plus word piece: Swift is, according to Sheridan, hated by the “ideological left”, perhaps because she was “brought up in a Christian home” and is nice. “One reason the left will never finally triumph is that they can never take yes for an answer,” he says. “And they are profoundly offended by any sign of normality, especially in their own ranks, or the ranks of those they expect to find sympathetic.”

Cashing in on Swift

All the newspapers – all the media, in fact – made the most of the Swiftmania by giving readers what they wanted: more Swift content.

According to ABC TV’s Media Watch, the Tele and the Herald Sun won the prize for excess, putting Swift on a combined 28 front pages in February. The two tabloids printed a 12-page ultimate fan guide, an 8-page souvenir concert liftout, a “build your own” lifesize Taylor Swift poster, and another 100-page souvenir edition liftout.

But the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph went one step further, publishing online fan galleries of the Sydney concerts featuring hundreds of happy concertgoers in their Swift attire. In the Herald, you could click on a link to buy a print for $72.

It reminded us of the Daily Telegraph’s innovative “Matildas semi-final fan gallery” last year which was a clever subscription strategy.

If any of the 300 Matildas fans who were photographed had clicked on the gallery to see their photo, they would have hit a paywall, forcing them to subscribe to see the pic.

Channel 10 in mourning

Young staff at Channel 10 who worked with the allegedly murdered roving TV reporter Jesse Baird are really struggling to cope as they come to terms with his death while also working on stories about the police investigation.

“Jesse was so much more than a colleague,” staff wrote in a post on social media. “He was a cherished friend who brightened every day with his positivity, cheeky winks and brilliant smile.

While high-profile staff such as presenters Narelda Jacobs and Angela Bishop have paid tribute to Baird publicly, there are dozens of junior staff who are doing it tough in silence, senior newsroom staff told us.

Unfortunately the redundancies announced by Ten last month continued apace, adding stress to the workforce, sources told Weekly Beast.

ABC’s local content decline

A former ABC senior executive in the television division, Michael Ward, has published an analysis of the broadcaster’s local content over the decade – and it’s not pretty.

Ward, who has just completed a PhD in media and communications at the University of Sydney, found that first release, non-news and current affairs screen content on the ABC’s main TV channel has dropped by 40% in ten years.

Ward says the decline in local content is due to close to $1bn budget shortfall over the period the Coalition was in power.

In 2022-23 the ABC broadcast 630 hours of new Australian programs compared to 1,060 hours in 2013-14, according to the study published by former staffers who call themselves ABC Alumni.

Using the ABC’s own data from annual reports and submissions, the analysis found that across all ABC platforms – including iview and the multi-channels – the drop was about 20%.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.