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Fairfax Media and News Corp fire back at The Saturday Paper

Linnell

Linnell

Senior editorial figures at News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media have rejected claims that a fall in editorial quality at their newspapers had accounted for their declining circulations.

The claims put forward by The Saturday Paper, the newest entrant to the newspaper market, attacked News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media over its standard of journalism in newspapers such as The Weekend Australian, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Fairfax editorial boss Garry Linnell rejected comments by Schwartz Media’s CEO Rebecca Costello who yesterday told Mumbrella that circulation falls were the result of a decline in the “quality of the content” of Australia’s other weekend newspapers.

“Costello must be living in another reality to the rest of us. What is this so called decline in quality?” said Linnell, the director of news media at Fairfax.

“The last time I looked we’d won a record number of Walkley awards for breaking news and stylish writing. Our journalism has never been more courageous and willing to expose wrongs and stand up for our audience.”

Editor-in-chief of The Australian Chris Mitchell also fiercely rejected the remarks lambasting Schwartz Media for what he labelled its “mawkish left-wing pieties”.

Mitchell also said he did not believe the launch of The Saturday Paper on March 1 would hurt The Weekend Australian or its Fairfax rivals, The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald.

“I think Morrie Schwartz (owner of Schwartz Media) will give readers the usual mawkish left-wing pieties served up in the Quarterly Essay and The Monthly. They won’t hurt the Weekend Oz and I doubt they will hurt Fairfax either,” he said.

Mitchell also stood up for News Corp rival Fairfax Media.

“While Fairfax is not going well midweek, the Saturday Age and SMH, like the Weekend Oz,  remain very strong products with breaking news, a colour magazine, good arts and sport coverage, very strong business sections and lots of heavyweight opinion from people who really move national debate,” he said. “Let’s face it, Robert Manne is a boutique appearance next to Paul Kelly or Peter Hartcher.”

In an interview with Mumbrella yesterday, Costello promised The Saturday Paper, edited by former Sydney Morning Herald journalist Erik Jensen, would launch with a circulation of 100,000 copies. She also said the decline in quality among Fairfax and News Corp’s weekend newspapers had opened a gap in the market for Schwartz Media.

“The reason for the decline in the circulation of the other newspapers is more based on the quality of the content,” said Costello.

“Our competitors are the Saturday papers, but we are not ‘targeting’ anyone as such, we are trying to give Australians a newspaper they deserve, and ideally what we are going to do is encourage those newspapers to lift their standards and go back and do what they used to do properly, rather than trying to compete with the internet.”

Mitchell rejected this and raised questions about how the 100,000 circulation figure would be achieved.

“I guess the question is how many of the 100k would be full price.  Not many in the first months I would guess,” he said.

Linnell also fired a shot across the bow of Schwartz Media warning them not to copy the format of The Quarterly Essay and The Monthly and focusing on opinion content.

“I look forward to seeing Costello’s publication setting the agenda and breaking news and desperately hope it doesn’t end up being a boring collection of opinion writers sifting through each others’ navel lint and lamenting the loss of media quality in Australia. Which is what they do now…” he said.

Nic Christensen 
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