Friday, January 7, 2011

Some People Bring Joy Wherever They Go - Others Whenever They Go.

So it's now official, although as yet unannounced … The Townsville Daily Astonisher (aka The Bulletin for those new to the blog) is to get a new editor.

The Magpie has it on his usual dodgy authority that Peter `Typo'  Gleeson is heading back to the Gold Coast from whence he came a couple of years ago, in a move that may be executed with such indecent haste, he may not even be here for the launch of the revamped Townsville paper at the end of this month.

Typo's is packing his carpetbag with his dikshonair - err, dicshon ... umm ... book with lots of big words, and his imminent departure for native southern climes has provoked both despondency in some quarters and mirth in others.

The merriment comes from those pranksters in the boardroom at News Ltd HQ in Holt Street, Sydney. Led by that thigh-slapping, sly practical joker John `Harto' Hartigan', the board has apparently decided to recall Typo to take over the Gold Coast Bulletin, where previously he had been chief reporter before being hauled up to the sunny north for his first shot at editorship.

That shot turned out to be a blank. 

Harto and crew are putting it around that Typo is the man to haul the Gold Coast paper's circulation out of the toilet, to whence it had descended under an apparently dud editor.

Harto and crew apparently keep their fingers elsewhere than on the pulse.
Now, really, that has to be one of the jolliest corporate wheezes of the decade, given that Typo's stewardship of the Astonisher has been … well, interesting.

Many words spring to mind to characterise his time at the helm. 
Stellar isn't one of them.

Typo has been all along an editor-on-trainer-wheels but nevertheless continually kept falling off, he and the paper only saved from any serious injury by more seasoned editorial staff around him, who often sought advice from southern sources.

Given what's gone into the paper in the past year or so makes one wonder just what was kept out by cooler heads.

The Magpie well remembers a trial where a bloke at Charters Towers was accused of murder - or in the alternative, manslaughter - after stabbing another man. The jury came back with not guilty, the bloke walked, and Typo decided the headline should be `Murderer Walks Free'.

The Magpie, who mucked around in the courts for the paper in those days,  glimpsed that headline on a dummy of the front page, and gently pointed out that the jury had decided that murderer was exactly what the man wasn't (self-defence had been the successful argument). And if published, it could be cost the paper…oh, roughly, $500,000.

The bemused and ultimately amused Bulletin-lawyer-on-call confirmed that this was a no-no of the most expensive variety and it was changed to the still questionable `Killer Walks Free'.

Typo's rooster-strutting claim that he won the 2009 (in-house News Ltd gong) of Regional Newspaper of the Year was a worthy tribute to the hard work and imagination of his predecessor, Mick Carroll. For it was his hard bridge-building work and imaginative positioning of the paper of the previous four or five years that garnered the gong.

This was awarded before Typo had the time to destroy that legacy with a wilful political agenda, wrong-headed sensationalist lying on the front page, and the injection of spin in the news columns that was seemingly dictated from outside the paper itself.

Try this as a service to informing our community of events:

Peter Lindsay's front page `$100,000 taxpayer funded world trip'. When challenged, Typo cheerfully admitted to Prince Peter he had `plucked the figure out of the air'. He happily made the same admission to an inquiring Magpie. In other words, he made it up. Somehow, he didn't seem to think there was anything wrong about this. The real amount was around $46,000, of which the taxpayer paid $16,000, and Mr Lindsay the remainder because his wife had accompanied him on the study tour. The correction of these facts appeared well inside the paper and nowhere near the front page a few days later. At about that time, Tony Mooney was firming up as the Labor candidate for Herbert in the Federal election. Mooney lost by about 4500 votes, but the egg was on the face of the Astonisher;

Gay-Mardi-Gras-for-Townsville headline. According to gay spokesman and political activist  Colin Edwards, despite the reporter being told on three occasions it was simply a get-together in a park, and there was to be no parade or such that could remotely be connected with Sydney's annual chiffon, oil and leather bash, Gay Mardi Gras for Townsville it became... accessorised  with a photoshopped pic of Priscilla-like figures on Castle Hill. This was presumably to boost sales and send the local no-neck bovva  boys into a foaming frenzy;

Then there was the mystifying headline `Whitewash', which didn't make a shred of sense in relation to a totally incorrect and wilfully misinterpreted story about the Townsville Council voting themselves an extra six months in office. This was not possible, and was just counci-bashing bullshit. God knows, there were and are enough reasons to bash the council, why bother to make up such a transparently dopey and linguistically idiotic headline and story? Answer: an over-anxious urge to please social mates;

The front page claiming an all-in riot by all 50 passengers on the Palm Island ferry had forced crew to lock themselves in the wheelhouse was written somewhat differently by the reporter, who, after properly and throughly investigating the issue, wrote that between eight and a dozen passengers had had a fight over some booze. According to the reporter, Typo asked him how many were on the ferry, and when told fifty, changed the story to read `50 riot' or somesuch. The very real concern with this cavalier style is that the reporter, a competent bloke all round, had to put up with angry calls from those he had interviewed who challenged the story and asked what the hell he was doing. Although it wrongly reflected poorly on the reporter, he remained loyal to his editor and took it on the chin. Nice touch of responsibility towards one's staff, one would think.

It gets like that when the choice is the editor's way or the highway. Given all of the above, and more, needless to say The Magpie chose the highway. Whatever happened to even a passing nod to the idea of objectivity?

The paper's circulation has nose-dived in the past year, according to the MagpieFone, down 4.2% in the last three-month audit alone.

This does not bode well for a newspaper that has had a static circulation of the past 10 years or so... and this is more than of passing interest since the population of the circulation region has increased by around 50,000 in that time.

(The Magpie will have more on this in the near future, plus the likely new editor, mass sackings  - no kidding, the last October The Bully turfed out 25% of its staff, didn't you read about it in the paper, funny that - and other disasters-in-waiting).

And what of the despondency Typo's departure will generate?

Well, the pall of gloom must be hanging heavy over the Flinders Street East bunker of blustering Big Bazza Taylor, the mega-charging megaphone lawyer and close pal of at least one major Labor player and erstwhile mayor.

Bazza must have a trembling bottom lip and be wiping away a tear of frustrated petulance as he reads of Typo's move back to the south. He and the editor had become good chums, and he had done everything to help ease the transition from the Gold Coast glitter to the relative valium of the `ville.

Indeed, the selfless Bazza, as ever doing his bit for his community with nary a thought for himself, had made the welcome-wagon gesture of employing Typo's very competent solicitor missus at a reputedly very generous salary from day one.

It was a generous gesture for which the community should salute Bazza with gratitude, for so selflessly making southern newcomers so at home.

Little doubt that Bazza will miss the matey outings to the soccer and Cowboys matches with Typo, the unconfirmed but reported punting Saturday arvos (with Cuddlepie Wallace, The Magpie is unreliably told) at Bazza's Victoria St pile and those lunches - oh, those lunches - at Michel's restaurant, with Typo, His Radiance and other luminaries of the unofficial `boys club' of days of yore.

The merriment and carefree banter of these lunches, enjoyed by all the regular patrons of Michels, will no doubt be missed by Bazza. 
The Magpie feels for you, mate. Really.

On other matters, it is no time to be making light of the terrible disaster of the Queensland floods, but it must be noted that along with all the other tolls, reporters' language was sometimes swept away in a muddy mess.

'Floodwaters inundated' is a tautology which used to be taught to cadet journos, but apparently no more, it was heard at least a dozen times.

Then there was the pause-giving mantra of `self-evacuation' a shadowy phraseology at best which The Magpie figured is exactly what he'd involuntarily suffer in the face of an unwelcome wall of water bearing down on him.

Then there was Ian 'Heals' Healey (clever nickname, that, as Richie would say). In a genuine comment from one of cricket's nicer blokes Heals used a break in commentary to sympathise with the flood victims His comment, not recorded faithfully and forgive The Magpie if he misheard a misspoken, went something along these lines:
'Ah, think how awful it must be to come back to a home full of mucky stuff all over you bedroom, your kitchen, your winery' … a disaster indeed.

Enough now, it is away to Poseurs' Bar, to seek solace in the company of a suitable lass, re a conversation, a drink or two and a cosy evening. If it is not forthcoming, The Magpie will have the self-evacuations big time.


  1. Happy New Year. Vote 1 Magpie for Editor. At least we may get some honest drivel so we can start buying the newspaper again and find out what is really happening.

  2. Not a job The Magpie would either want or is equipped to do. This might put the mockers on him, but the old bird would suggest current deputy editor Ray Anderson would the steady, objective hand that readers are looking for, if News Ltd can come to its senses and appoint someone with local background, and no axes or ambitions to grind. And there's plenty of other editorial talent down in Ogden St ... more on that in a future load of old cobblers.

  3. Well done, The Magpie....

    Ah, the coming end of the Daily Fish Wrapper era and a return to the Townsville Bulletin of old puts a spring in one's heart, a laugh on one's lips and swirling ideas to one's brain.... since it might be worthwhile writing letters to The NEW Editor soon.

  4. mystified of MystertonJanuary 8, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    Hurray for the Magpie it's so great to have honesty in journalism......we would never find these things out if it weren't for the old bird

  5. A great post!

    The blatant dishonesties that Peter Gleeson has foisted on this city over the past few years has been an absolute disgrace! The recent “Mooney backed by Businessmen” is a prime example.

    Letters to the editor is another area where labor loonies are allowed to have outrageous lies and accusations published ,supported by banner headlines, with reasoned factual responses published days later
    on non-Wednesday/Saturday circulation days in obscure parts of the paper.

    I sincerely trust that his replacement has a reasonable sense of balance and a desire to inculcate true professionalism into the staff.
    I also would like to see you back reporting from the courts in your usual balanced and accurate non-sensationalistic style.

  6. Talking to folk out here in the Towers where, believe it or not, we CAN read, many are telling me that they are no longer picking up the Bulletin because it is no longer worth the money or the pain. Noone believes anything on the front page and the sensational puns that act as headlines.
    Let's hope that the next guy/girl in the chair has a realistic outlook on life in general and wants to report things as they really are. Out here we would like to nominate Ando for the job.

  7. Ah Magpie, you've done it again!
    Like most fair-minded people around the 'ville, I hope your mail is on the mark, because Gleeson has turned the Bully into a laughing stock.
    It should come as no surprise that News Ltd supremo "Harto" sees Gleeson as foreman material at the Gold Coast. After all, Harto was the braveheart who declared he would "root out" the dirty deed doers in the Melbourne Storm affair, but wasted no time in clearing the coach, one Craig Bellamy, a renowned control freak who claimed not to have known that his players were being paid well over the salary cap. One also wonders how super sleuth Harto failed to "root out" the high profile Storm players who signed 2 contracts, yet claimed they didn't know what was going on.
    And finally, deepest sympathy to Bazza, Lancini, and the local Labor loonies who now will have to put in another six months hard slog trying to enlist the new editor into their "scratch my back" club.
    Life can be sooooo unfair.
    Ex Bully buyer.

  8. Listen up!! In NZ over Xmas & happened to meet a baker whose specialty is meat pies Tells me he recently went through the process to export to Oz but hit a hurdle at the death.Reason?? Too much meat
    in the pies!! Can you believe that??
    Keep up the good work.I have written to the paper suggeesting they reemploy you but as expected no response from the arrogant,out of touch mob that allegedly run the rag.Two good things about the paper of late 1 Does not take long to read. 2 Does not take up much room in the bin.!

  9. Listen up!! In NZ over Xmas & happened to meet a baker whose specialty is meat pies Tells me he recently went through the process to export to Oz but hit a hurdle at the death.Reason?? Too much meat
    in the pies!! Can you believe that??
    Keep up the good work.I have written to the paper suggeesting they reemploy you but as expected no response from the arrogant,out of touch mob that allegedly run the rag.Two good things about the paper of late 1 Does not take long to read. 2 Does not take up much room in the bin.!

  10. I wonder if you are right? This rumour was circling the Walker St Council chambers late last year but one Gleeson denied when asked directly.

  11. Oh, frabjous day, this! It doesn't half boggle the mind, the things some people get up to, eh? How do you lose circulation when you're the only game in town? And then to have the problem kicked upstairs to a larger market...well, I just don't know. I well remember all the sensational front page headlines you mentioned, and was most interested to note each time that there was usually no follow-up, that having stirred the pot, that was sufficient. I know that type of tabloid behaviour isn't confined to Townsville, but it was dismaying all the same. The town, and the cubs at the paper who are (mostly) trying against daunting odds to remain true to the principles of journalism (and who may not be in a position to resign when those principles are savagely breached), deserves better. I look forward with great eagerness to learning more especially the mass sackings - It's important work you're doing, this...

    Yours in whole-hearted support,

    Paul Anderson