By ERWIN CHLANDA
Top brass at the Murdoch-owned NT News, the sister paper in the Territory of the Centralian Advocate, have been accused of striking a deal with the Territory government because of concerns that “negative” reporting of the government’s activities could cost the paper advertising revenue.
This allegation was reported yesterday by Sarah Danckert in the Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper The Age, covering an unfair dismissal claim lodged in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday by former NT News political reporter Christopher Walsh.
Ms Danckert reports that in his court application, Mr Walsh alleges his editor, Matt Williams, and the paper’s general manager, Greg Thomson, entered into a “blind copying arrangement” with the chief executive of the Department of the NT Chief Minister, Jodie Ryan, for her to blind copy in Mr Thomson and Mr Williams into all correspondence with the government and public service agencies.
Mr Thomson was previously a reporter at the Advocate and has been in media advisor roles for the CLP, including six months as director of communications and marketing for the Department of the Chief Minister when the CLP was in office.
The Age reports it is alleged the agreement was struck “because Ms Ryan did not like the exposure from articles written by the applicant in which she was held accountable to the public.
“It is also alleged that on October 9 last year Mr Williams spiked a story by Mr Walsh about NT Department of Housing chief executive Jamie Chalker,” writes Ms Danckert.
“A day earlier, Mr Walsh had revealed in the NT News that Mr Chalker was under investigation for allegedly awarding a plum public service job to a childhood friend.
“Mr Walsh alleges the story did not run because Mr Williams was ‘under pressure from the top’ and he alleges that after he made separate complaints about alleged interference in a court matter and the blind copying arrangement, his relationship soured with the paper’s top brass.
“The reporter was dismissed on October 19. He is seeking reinstatement, back pay and damages. Mr Walsh has named Nationwide News – a key subsidiary of News Corp – and Mr Williams as defendants in the case.”
“A spokeswoman for News Ltd said: ‘News Corp Australia and the NT News strongly refute the claims made by Mr Walsh who was dismissed. As the matter is currently before the Court, we have no further comment,'” Ms Danckert reports.
By ERWIN CHLANDA