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EDITORS AT WAR: Daily Tele’s Whittaker and Sunday Tele’s Breen squabble over who gets what in merger mania

NeilbreenpaulwhittakerwarThe editors of the Sydney’s News Limited newspapers, Daily Tele boss Paul Whittaker and the Sunday Tele’s Neil Breen are in a death-wrestle for influence within the company, according to Sydney scribes, VEXNEWS can reveal.

It comes as it is widely understood within the company that new company boss, Gough Whitlam’s son-in-law, Kim Williams has commanded that a full merger of the two publications occur, with other News Limited Sundays to also be merged into their daily counterparts. Sunday newspapers in Australia have generally had a separate staff, editor and masthead from the weekday Monday to Saturday ones. The observant have already noticed that while the Daily Telegraph newspaper still bears its Daily Telegraph masthead, its website is now known simply as ‘The Telegraph.’ Change is on its way.

The decision will be announced, within weeks, we were told a while ago, although there is much to iron out, apparently.

Like the offspring of nervous divorcing parents, Sydney scribes were recently mortified when several witnessed an unseemly “screaming match” between the two highly-regarded News Limited editors believed to be related to the merger and its many details. Despite our best efforts to find evidence otherwise, both chaps are pretty highly-regarded by their respective staffs so the feud is causing considerable concern with the crew.

In a world where a software company – Narrative Science – has even devised code that automates journalism by taking in a source of data – like sports results or stock prices – and turns it into copy, even the smallest thing can induce panic.

The cause of the spat and a trigger for considerable anxiety in the newsroom is what will become of all of them if the Sunday Tele is effectively scrapped with its staff folded into the Daily Telegraph’s operation.

Keep in mind, this is all an internal power-play, News Limited publications will continue to print, and to dominate their markets, just not with a separate staff for their Sunday newspaper. This means that their Sunday staff, familiar with the luxury of a one-week deadline, will be thrown into the mix of their more pressured Daily frenemies. The editorial effect will presumably be fewer exclusives and fewer in-depth investigations but these things are perhaps a luxury the market can no longer afford. Occasionally, there is competition between the Sunday publications and the daily, so that competitive pressure will fade too.

Naturally, such big change is causing considerable angst within the company and its hard-working staff, we suspect much of it exaggerated as the steady decline of their Fairfax competitor means there’ll be plenty to serve at the News Limited feasting table for years to come. Greg Hywood at Fairfax is ever-so gradually raising the white flag, announcing [pdf] that they won’t be distributing their newspapers to rural and remote communities any more. Announcing more cut-backs. Their end is nigh.

Perhaps only a syndicate with Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and John Singleton’s combined and collective wealth and intelligence could save Fairfax from the mistakes of its past, where it handed control of, for one example, the entire employment ad market, to a couple of Melbourne nerds, one of them, heaven forbid, a lawyer.

Breen, a twenty-year News Ltd veteran who has edited the Sunday Tele since 2006 is keen not to end up being subordinate to Whittaker who was previously the editor of The Australian. Whittaker is also a company man, starting with the Gold Coast Bulletin in its gloriously white-shoe days of 1987.

Breen regards Whittaker as a pest and irritant, a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ (to the Tele and its unique perspective on the world) who is trying to ‘shaft’ him, those familiar with the matter have told VEXNEWS.

Whittaker was believed to have been recently troubled when The Australian (of which Whittaker was once editor) published a list of the most important people in media and ranked him below Breen. Some say he also takes careful note when Breen is mistakenly described on his many television appearances as editor of the Telegraph.


The fact that those lists are only really interesting with a data set like how much money they’ve got – or perhaps, say, how many ALP FEA delegates within their sphere of influence (now there’s an idea) – is a point usually lost on those people on the lists, or those excluded. The Australian’s variation on it offered the supreme insult, those who were merely designated as ‘ones to watch’.

We digress.

Kim Williams is beginning to grapple with the tough realities of being in charge of the mega-titan of Australian news publishing. For all its faults, it’s a great company but it’s an incredibly tough market to sell print ads and even the grand wizard of subscription TV will find it a challenge to people used to paying for content that has been pretty much given away since 1995.

All Australians who are reading this should subscribe to the Australian and Herald Sun, unless you wish them to disappear, and if anyone can make you shell out it will be Kim Williams who presided over Foxtel’s now huge success, making us pay for a whole bunch of channels we never watch.

But the transition process, as evidenced by the Whittaker v Breen wars, will not be easy.


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  1. “I want to keep the deck chair on the upper deck of the Titanic that I’ve always sat in.”

    Posted by Giuseppe De Simone | March 22, 2012, 9:15
  2. How charming it is to see vex hating everyone equally.

    Posted by Stefan | March 22, 2012, 10:07
  3. Crikey used to get these stories *sniff*

    Posted by Sophie Bee | March 22, 2012, 16:08
  4. Must be the fashion at News Ltd. Over at Fairfax they are too busy screwing PRs and others, judging from the performance of various execs. (I mean, even Clegg is bonking…..Olivia Wirth!!!)

    Posted by eldrige | March 25, 2012, 17:37
  5. When does that fat Scotty go bananas?

    Posted by Emo | March 27, 2012, 14:41
  6. Ohh! before I became an MP I wanted to be a ‘Pile Driver’. Even these days I am still more than happy to pile drive any needy chaps.

    Posted by Pissy Chryne | March 27, 2012, 21:35


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