The Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson blasts claims her Barnaby Joyce story had been broken earlier

National political editor of the Daily Telegraph, Sharri Markson, has rejected critics’ claims her Kennedy Award-winning story revealing former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s affair with a staffer and a subsequent cover up had previously been covered by smaller online media outlets.

Markson’s comments that outlets Independent Australia and True Crime Weekly were “blogs” which publish “absolute rubbish” drew a scathing response from publisher Dave Donovan who described them as “defamatory”.

Speaking on a Walkley Foundation panel last night, Markson said the outlets claiming to have broke the story had a habit of printing rumours and ‘rubbish’, and that the Barnaby Joyce story was hard to verify to the standards of a major metro paper.

The Daily Telegraph story revealing Joyce’s staffer was pregnant with his child was published in early February this year.

Websites Independent Australia and True Crime Weekly had published stories claiming Joyce, a prominent campaigner for traditional marriage in the run up to the same sex marriage plebiscite, was in an extra-marital relationship.

The Daily Telegraph also ran a front page story by Markson alluding to some of the rumours.

“It was a very difficult story to stand up,” Markson said. “To in effect prove that someone had an affair and that the paternity is the deputy prime minister. That is a tricky thing to be a hundred percent certain of when no parties are commenting.

“Which is why it took us so long to publish it. We tried months before in October of 2017, just before the New England by-election. So we ended up with a front page story that kind of went half way that said there was a personal crisis in Barnaby Joyce’s life, that was sending shivers of panic in the Turnbull government but it was very difficult to stand up.

“When you break a story like this, everybody contacts you with a story about Barnaby Joyce. I’ve never had so many calls from the public… It’s a matter of choosing which ones you chase up.”

Markson was asked by Mumbrella about her response to critics claiming the Independent Australia and True Crime Weekly websites had previously published the stories.

“The front page story I referred to earlier was before anyone had any notion of anything, which was in October of last year. But then those blog sites print absolute garbage. Absolute rubbish.

“Even as part of their reporting, they just report rumours. They do hit jobs on me which are completely inaccurate and a lot of other people all of the time… They publish any rumours they hear. The garbage can’t be separated from the facts.”

Independent Australia publisher Dave Donovan slammed the Daily Telegraph’s comments, telling Mumbrella: “Markson’s comments, if you have reported them accurately, are defamatory and false. IA is a member of the Press Council and the Canberra Press Gallery. We are not a blog and we do not publish rumours or smears. The idea a tabloid Daily Telegraph writer would suggest we do is a case of base projection.

“Independent Australia was the first to break the story of Campion’s pregnancy, though we did not ‘out’ her and publish a tabloid photograph of her baby bump to humiliate her.

“The very idea you can ‘break’ a story that thousands upon thousands of people already know about is absurd. Markson, if she had a shred of self-respect would acknowledge she did not break this story and hand any misbegotten rewards she received back.”

Markson was appointed The Daily Telegraph’s national political editor in September 2016 after serving as The Australian’s media editor where she became known for her aggressive pursuit of stories involving the ABC, Fairfax Media and broke the story around then Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton’s abusive tweets to members of the Jewish community, which eventually led to him leaving the company.

Prior to The Australian she was the editor of Cleo and before that was a chief of staff at the Sunday Telegraph and a senior producer at Channel Seven.

During the Walkley panel, Markson also rejected criticisms of the Canberra press gallery being too reliant on ‘drops’ from ministers’ offices.

“I don’t think that’s the case, I think there are policy announcements that media outlets cover, but those are never the stories really are put out on the front page of our papers or that people talk about or that get followed up.

“If it’s a big announcement then it will get on the front page, but that will happen very rarely.

“It’s not often that the public’s engaged with an announcement, our papers go bid with exclusives that’s original journalism.”


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