Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Nice Try Chutzpah Award of the week goes to The Daily Astonisher, which has a cunning Baldrick-like plan to counter drastic drops in circulation and readership. Easy, let's just start UPPING the advertising ask.

(Chutzpah is a wonderful Jewish expression which means 'shameless audacity'.)

In fact, it’s been an astonishing week all round.

The Bulletin iditor whistled quietly while gazing around the ceiling , taking an ingenuous ‘who, me”? stance on his own pot-stirring  policy backflip

 … and ace reporter John 'Ando' Andersen sets the record straight – and so does The Magpie.

The jostling for Labor pre-selection for the seat of Townsville is throwing up some interesting possibilities. Are the rumours right about a surprise candidate in the wings, waiting to return to the Labor fold? Right or wrong, The ‘Pie will float the rumours for you anyway (so what’s new?).

The Oscar Pistorius joke mill  has just about run its race, and is now getting somewhat prosthetic … err, sorry, that’s pathetic. But the case does highlight an amazing difference between Australia and South Africa when it comes the niceties of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ – The ‘Pie shows an example which is far from funny.

All that and other bits and pieces in this week’s nest at

First, a personal note and apology for being somewhat late, but this has been written in Melbourne, where I have had to come to be with a friend for compassionate reasons. But life goes on.

Now, a bit of housekeeping.

Had a call for John 'Ando' Andersen this week. Ando had not seen the mild kerfuffle that an email commenter stirred up after The ‘Pie had made mildly merry with a recent item in Ando’s column. Ando wasn't aware of the little flurry of comments because he had been out in the scrub, interviewing publicans, cattlemen, publicans, farmers, publicans, struggling small business people, and just for perspective of the battlers, a couple of barmaids.

Ando, with whom The ‘Pie has been on friendly terms for more than 20 years, was quite jovial but insistent that he was not the author of the email which gave The Magpie a free character reading about his many perceived shortcomings.

The published missive was allegedly authored by an ‘Ando’.

Ando (the real one) made the 'golden rule' point that he’s been around long enough in politics and journalism to ignore the inevitable barbs that are occasionally triggered in those arenas.  This would presumably include the initial joking pin-prick from The ‘Pie.

So if Ando says he didn’t write the email, then he didn’t.  He’s very curious to know who did, and so is The Magpie  – c’mon Anonymous, own up. JA is casting a curious eye around the newsroom, to guess who came charging to his defence. 

But Ando, mate, are you on the right track? The missive didn’t have noticeable spelling and grammatical errors in it to have originated down your way – the one factor that fooled The ‘Pie into thinking it was you to start with. But The 'Pie is pleased to know it was some boofhead, rather than a bloke he has always liked and respected.

Staying with matters Astonisher, here’s an interesting little tale of creative ‘issues management’.

A respected and very successful local business bod was interested to read last weekend’s Magpie harrumph about the falling circulation and readership of the Townsville Bulletin. The old bird even had the temerity to suggest that the numbers were so dire that perhaps the paper would have the decency to drop their gouging advertising rates a tad to match the hard times upon which The Astonisher has fallen.

Reading across: weekday 2010-11, weekday 2011-12, Saturday 2010-11 Saturday 2011-12 

Dream on.

Here’s an instructive yarn.

For many years now, the business bod in question had a deal – part promotion, part advertising – where a competition was run where there was a weekly $1000 contribution to a jackpotting prize pool which was matched dollar for dollar by The Bulletin. This worked out at a maximum of $26,000 over a year, 13 grand each.

Not so long ago, our man fronted up for the same deal, now almost a tradition, and not withstanding his already generous contribution to the News Ltd coffers in general advertising. He was a tad – umm, surprised (read: stunned) …  when told that this time around he had to pony up $20,000! He asked why the  paper had upped the 50/50 prize money arrangement, only to be told they hadn’t – that was just the new deal – co-promoter $20,000, The Townsville Bulletin $6000.

A brief conversation with said Astonisher personage ensued, and although it didn’t actually consist of two words involving sex and travel, the message was the same. And it was a only very brief interval before the advertising boss – The ‘Pie is led to believe it was one Sue Willis, by all reports a nice gal and already well liked around town, but she is one to follow riding orders from Sydney – backed down and agreed to the old terms.

The ‘Pie just wonders if all this wasn’t just a clever put-up and put-off job. The 65% hike was so astonishing that the businessman was taken off balance and quickly accepted the offer back as it had stood. Was it just an ambit claim, which by  appearing to back down,  distracted the advertiser from actually asking for a reduction in the going rates, given the plummeting circulation and readership numbers?

Look, this all such good fun, let’s stay with The Astonisher.

Astonisher Iditor Lachlan Heywood
Back in August last year, The Magpie reported on Iditor Lachlan Heywood’s interesting take on the CMC investigating the matter of Mayor Mullet’s slur on her nemesis Ray Burton. When the matter went to the CMC for investigation … and certainly before any outcome … Mr Heywood boldly squeaked in his Year 10 essay known as the editorial that the eventual opinion of the CMC’s gumshoes didn’t matter, Ray Burton should go anyway, because he was picking on the paper’s honorary editor Mayor Mullet. So much for the value of the CMC and due process.

Eventually, the mayor had her bum smacked by the CMC, finding no wrong-doing on behalf of  the CEO. Despite several Mullet-inspired attacks, Mr Burton didn’t leave, is still there and has secured another term.

But in yesterday’s iditorial,  (God knows who or how many different people writes this inconsistent guff but the iditor has to wear it) we were informed that the CMC had told Mayor Mullet and Ray Burton to make a better effort to get along. And, surprisingly, the paper – as, ahem, opinion leader of the community – thoroughly endorsed these sentiments and both should not make the matter so personal.

Now that is hilarious, because when the mayor decided to run the issue publicly in the paper, The Astonisher duly published her blubbing and made it even more difficult for any rapprochement – that’s the $10 word for ‘a resumption of harmonious relations’ -  to end a personal spat that should have been sorted out privately. It certainly was not an issue that a more balanced and mature leader would have purposely pushed in the public limelight. Or one on which a more balanced and mature editor would have taken such lop-sided and divisive stand.

Not so much a divide and conquer strategy, more a divide and sell more papers misconception – an idea that couldn’t have been more wrong if they tried (see the latest round of figures in last week’s blog).

Is the paper getting it's spin advice from the same Einsteins running Julia Gillard's death by a thousand cuts strategy?

Other matters. 

The state seat of Townsville is attracting a certain amount of interest from Labor already, which may have something to do with LNP incumbent John Hathaway’s low key style. Many believe the ex-military man, excellent fellow and all that, is not proving to be a voice for the community. Sam Cox is jumping in with comments and ideas about the CBD, which just happens to be Mr Hathaway’s turf. Sam is also savvy enough to be lasooing other attention-grabbing  issues like law and order and youth crime where a lot of noise can be made without actually doing anything substantial.

That is possibly why Mayor Mullet has started an simpering, eyelashe-batting campaign for possible pre-selection now that the law has been changed, so if she runs and loses, she still - sadly - remains our ego-centric mayor.

The Magpie understands that a certain Scott Stewart who works at Town High has been making more than mutterings about a tilt to carry the ALP’s broken lance into the fight for Townsville. (The ‘Pie reckons ‘Mayor’ is about as far as the Mullet is going to go, and lucky at that).

But far more intriguing is the suggestion that our old mate Councillor Ray Haystack Gartrell is considering  a shot at the seat of Townsville. Two heavy breathers down the MagpieFone both suggested he would perhaps look to join the Labor pre-selection square dance. But that appears to be a doh-see-don't.

Ray staunchly denied the rumour of any plans of that nature to The Magpie, making the point that he certainly wouldn’t be able to run for the ALP or the LNP, where three years continuous membership is generally required, with only the rare exception. But since Ray isn’t a black Northern Territory female Olympic gold medallist, the three-year rule will knock him out. anyway.  Which is maybe a shame in one way - Ray comes from a staunch Labor family – apparently, his Dad didn’t speak to him for a few months when he teamed up with the Townsville First grouping, which was perceived – not entirely correctly – to be LNP in all but name. (The deputy doo-dah would be a Green if anything, but Vern probably isn’t that dopey).

The ‘Pie is told Haystack is a popular figure in local sporting circles, particularly cricket, and gets a bit of exposure on the ABC, usually on Saturday mornings. Ray is well liked generally, despite the occasional strange little hissy fits, like running to The Astonisher when he was asked to share his grace-and-favour office space in the council building with others. 

Fellow councillors suggest ‘Ray wants to be loved by everyone’ – not a good or worthy trait in a budding politician – and has apparently been targeted by the Mullet in a so-far unsuccessful ‘divide and conquer’ strategy.

Katter’s Cut Snake Party? Ray might be a bit of a sporting jock, but ain’t that demented. At least, don’t think so. 

So while The Magpie is wiling to accept Haystack is sincere in his denials of any such plans, it is best to remember the old adage that politicians can’t lie about the future because it hasn’t happened yet. And not surprisingly, pollies believe this bit of outright sophistry.

Speaking of which, a brief look at Canberra, where we may see Bill Shorten bravely take the helm of  of the sinking ALP ship when Joolya jumps ship – did she fall or was she pushed is not a question that needs to be asked. 

But Bill Shorten? Well, yes, Zanetti seems to have the other runner out of that race, and into another.

On the international scene, the Oscar Pistorius joke factory is churning ‘em out like fortune cookies. 

She didn’t know he was sneaking up behind her – it was the Silence of the Limbs.

When Oscar Pistorius said he just wanted to be like able-bodied athletes, who knew he meant O.J Simpson?

And many more, that a caring Magpie will spare you. Well, not entirely, a twisted Bentley is in on the act.

That'll have the coppers stumped!

But the ‘it’s all over red rover’ japes bring us to a rather curious aspect of the South African media coverage of the event.

The matter was quickly, and remains sub judice - ‘under the attention of the courts and not to be discussed elsewhere’. As such, even in South Africa one would hope, the incident cannot generally be reported except for facts of proceedings, what was alleged in court, and bland statements from assorted legal jugheads outside court.

Apparently, at least one paper in SA is under the misapprehension that sub judice is a fruit drink you buy at Subway.

After Pistorius had been charged with murder, one prominent paper ran a story, complete with these step-by-step cartoon drawings of how he killed his girlfriend. 

This rag has saved the country time and money, solving the crime and then explaining it in a series of artists (not very good) illustrations of how the deed was done (apparently), thus: 


Interesting journalistic ethics, but even then, accuracy isn’t the paper’s - or the cut and paste artist’s -  strong point. The Pistorius figure has been the beneficiary of a medical miracle and has grown feet - and it must have been a recent miracle, he seems a bit  in danger of a missing a step or two as he heads downstairs. Or is this a subtle hint to the rozzas that they’re onto the wrong suspect and the perp is not only able-bodied … but also – ta da – black?

Newspaper editors around the world have been breaking out the Red Ned and White Infuriator to celebrate that Pistorius has decided to plead not guilty. As they say, this one is going to run and run. 

Shame about the timing, though.

No chance now of a headline ‘And The Oscar Goes To … Jail!’


  1. Funny as blog 'Pie! :) But Haystack Gartrell won't ever be preselected by anyone while his hair style is soooooo......'60's !!

  2. And the Astonisher with its own toxic culture and morale issues run a story on council's so-called "toxic culture" - go figure! And as for this weekend's front page story re security and the "youth crime wave" - pure promotion of security companies. Makes me wonder of there is a Bully promotion coming. Interestingly there was no mention of police stats re number of crimes etc...basic journalism 101 out the window.

  3. In Friday's Arsestonisher, Ewen Jones at the top of page 4 displays his usual engage mouth before engage brain style.

    On the subject of work for the dole, this peoples representative states that working for the dole is not a good idea coz if they don't front up "what do you do? send them to jail? !!!!!!!. Its very simple no show no dole.

    Why do our pollies always ignore simple solutions.

    1. I dont't think "It's a sin" Jones has a brain to engage judging on his comment's and performance thus far. The unfortunate part is subject on which way the preferances go between Katter & Labor he will probably be there for another term

  4. Aways good and always entertaining. I think Ando needs to look hard at the damage that's been done within the Astonisher's work place culture. Pie, I didn't know that Debbie Karoootootoo2 was set free by the Astonisher?

  5. Also, I hope you're friend makes a speedy recovery in Melbourne. You're good company.

  6. Another gem of a blog, Pie.
    On matters Astonishing, the word around town is that a group of former Townsville Bulletin staffers is looking at buying an already established local newspaper and giving The Astonisher a run for its money (you know, that stuff News Ltd has been pulling out of the local community for years - and at the rate of 40% return on investment!!!!!).
    And these guys aren't lightweights either. They formed a formidible management team when the paper was at its best and enjoying record circulation and readership.
    Add to the mix two cashed-up, heavy-hitting advertisers and you've got what I would call a no-brainer.
    If I were running News Ltd I'd be sacking the present management and trying to get the old boys back, or making them an attractive offer to buy The Astonisher, because the figures won't be so astonishing once they get their act together.
    It won't only be the circulation and readership that is falling off a cliff.
    Watch this space!!!!!!!

  7. Did the readers of letters to the Editor of the Bully read the out of the blue letter by political pest and media hound (magpies words) Branch Secretary of the Thuringowa Labor Party Paul Jacob early last week regarding TCC debt. The reply by Councillor Sue Blom later in the week left Jacob eating very very humble pie (of course Jacob was badly defeated by Cr Blom in the last Council Election

    1. Refer letters to the Editor 25 Feb. If Paul Jacob has to obtain support from a Candiate for a previous Council Election who campaigned in a gorilla suit , heaven help the Labor Party.

    2. I think Jacob's cost of Insurance may increase when next renewed Following his letter to the Editor Feb 25...All he needs to do is get his details & facts correct... Why does the Bully keep printing letters from this has been Labour pest..

    3. Now another letter fron Jacob bagging Suncorp I don't think he should be looking for Insurance when it falls due in the next 12 months. Why does the Bully keep printing letters by this Labour Party attention seeker

  8. Oh behave, the Oscar cartoon is hilarious.

  9. JayJ you have a point re promotion by the Bully. Tony Raggatt seems to have fallen into the trap now he has been forced to write more frequently. His further pushing of the Pinnacles Development barrow with a double page spread of the "wonderful benefits" to residents, "at no cost to ratepayers"..... HUH?? Does he believe the Smooth Spinak Spin from the promo mouth from the south?? Ratepayers from Idalia and the rest of Townsville should be very wary and sceptical of such "promises".

    1. If the said company had actually offered that amount of money for development of children's sport in similar circumstances in a third world country like, say Zimbabwe, provided the local authority re-zoned the land to benefit it, I wonder if the Astonisher would have reported the matter as the corruption that it in fact is, irrespective of its location?

  10. On a lighter note Kilmore (Vic) Races Sun 24 Race 6 won by a horse Named Clinton Affair Breeding by Snitzel from Watch My Lips.

  11. If Ando says that it wasn't his email. So be it. Chances are it was from within the Astonisher. Possibly some twit in a mouse suit.

  12. Pie, check out the last text to the editor in today's bully .... Re: editors note ..... Why are they commenting on this .... And not to other texts ?

  13. Pie, Your best blog ever. Well written, balanced and entertaining. I dips me lid to you. Gonzo.

  14. For a bit of mischief making, what about the idea that the LNP are sandbagging around Sam Cox? Even though he's on a smaller margin, everything we've seen so far shows that the Thuringowa electorate is their focus, while Townsville may be too hard to retain.

    1. I think constant references to Sam in the media reflect the hard yards he puts in. Some of his successes (e.g. Community Centre) go back to his efforts well before the election. No sand-bagging required, this bloke is just a good M.P.

  15. I think the lesson is, the longer you're away and not working at the Astonisher the clearer it becomes.

  16. Well, Ando... Even if you are a bit of a knob, I have no reason to believe that you are anything other than an honest one. And if 'Pie believes you, that is good enough for me.

    So I retract my previous comments.

    You had best seek out the culprit as your reputation was sorely sullied.

    I don't think that you have to look too far. The post under your name had a definite whiff of eau de Skene.

    I think that the Pistorious story has run out of legs.

    1. Dear Ando,

      If you said you didn't write the mysterious email that was sent. Ok, I will read your little stories.

      I think it's a white mouse who sent it.

  17. Further to my comment last month re John Bearne addressing Council re the cost blowout and other problems at Jezzine Barracks this will occur IN HOUSE at Council @ 1030 on 12th March.. NO PRESS NO PUBLIC . Combined with the building of the RSL Stadium and other matters there would appear to be more to be answered than previously thought..

  18. Amazing they'll publish this but not in their own office..

  19. hi pie, always good and always entertaining. Enjoy Melbourne!