Piers Morgan parties with Sky News Australia mates after massive Murdoch payday | Amanda Meade

Piers Morgan’s global talkshow is weeks away from launching but the British commentator was already handing out voting advice when he jetted in for Sky News Australia’s 25th anniversary party at the Sydney Opera House.

“Australians will want to elect the leader who they believe will move most swiftly to restore all freedom rights lost during the crisis, and who will be strong on national security,” Morgan said after arriving on Lachlan Murdoch’s private jet to celebrate with new colleagues including Peta Credlin, Chris Kenny and Rita Panahi.

The former Good Morning Britain host will reportedly be paid £50m (A$93m) by Rupert Murdoch for a daily TV talkshow which will also air on Fox Nation in the US and News UK’s TalkTV. And what does Murdoch get for all that cash? An influential television and newspaper commentator whose stated aim is to “cancel cancel culture”. “I’m going to cancel the cancel culture,” he told Peta Credlin on Sky. “I’m going to take those ultra woke lunatics head on.”

Morgan will inherit Alan Jones’s primetime spot on Sky News following the shock jock’s unceremonious dumping last year after he failed to attract a significant audience.

His extraordinary deal includes columns in the London tabloid the Sun and the New York Post and a book with Murdoch’s publishing house Harper Collins.

The 56-year-old former newspaper editor quit Good Morning Britain last year and stormed off the set after being taken to task over comments he made about the mental health of the Duchess of Sussex.

“I’ll be calling out extremists from all sides, not just in Australia but anywhere – and especially those who think cancel culture’s a great idea and want to compel us all to lead their own dreary joyless lifestyles,” he told News Corp publications.

“I do currently identify as a larrikin, and know my koalas from my possums and my bludgers from my bogans,” he said. “I’m good mates with Shane Warne, so if there are any linguistic issues, I’ll get him to help me. He’s always had a fruity command of the English language.”

Don’t ask, don’t tell

It’s been a week of “town hall” meetings for staff at the big media companies, with News Corp Australia surprising employees with an extra day off for their birthday.

But the Sydney Morning Herald’s town hall, convened by the executive editor of the SMH and the Age, Tory Maguire, was not such a happy affair.

Staff had the ability to ask anonymous questions of management in a chat box in the video call – and they didn’t hold back.

After a briefing about a new podcast about the mental health of teenagers, staff began to ask about their own mental health, which some say is being affected by overwork.

“I can’t wait for the explainer on panic attacks,” Anonymous said. “Then I’ll know what I’m experiencing from working non-stop.” There were several questions on the mental health theme.

But some staff were also annoyed about the attitude of the new SMH editor, Bevan Shields, who has made a name for himself by blocking people on Twitter who are critical of him or the paper.

Tory Maguire, the Executive Editor of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, WAtoday and Brisbane Times, at an online staff town hall meeting in February 2022.
Tory Maguire at an online staff town hall meeting in February 2022. Photograph: SMH

The tension sparked on Twitter by Shields’ insistence that Sydney was experiencing a train strike – and not a shutdown of the network by the government – spilled over into the all-staff meeting.

Internal messages seen by Weekly Beast show that at least one staff member told Shields before 7am that “not technically a strike” and that “industrial action” would be a better description. Shields insisted it was a strike but the Herald later changed to describing it as a “shutdown”. He later blamed “a few activist accounts” on Twitter for whipping up the furore and dismissed reader complaints about the framing.

Some of the anonymous questions were:

“How much have subscriptions decreased after Bevan repeatedly blocked subscribers on Twitter?”

“Does the social media policy apply to senior editors and if so how is it enforced?”

But as soon as the questions appeared they were deleted, and they were never addressed by Maguire.

Nine Entertainment declined to comment.

Hot Albo returns

Just in time for an upcoming federal election, Anthony Albanese has received the Australian Women’s Weekly soft lens treatment. Albo and his new partner, Jodie Hayden, were photographed in the opposition leader’s Marrickville home and they sat down with the magazine to talk about the “ease and joy that sprung up between them” when they met for a drink in a “backstreet brewery”.

“When the Weekly arrives at his federation bungalow in the sleepy, suburban end of Marrickville, Anthony (Albo to his mates, his constituents, just about everyone) is unpacking the dishwasher,” the story says. “Jodie, who lives a couple of suburbs away in Stanmore, is pouring tumblers of iced water for our crew.

“Perhaps in part that’s because they have such a lot in common. Jodie and Anthony both wear their hearts on their sleeve, and they were both formed by quintessentially Australian, though very different, childhoods.”

It’s rare for a politician to be covered in such a positive way, complete with a glamorous photo shoot, and it doesn’t always go to plan. When Julia Gillard was photographed knitting a kangaroo for the royal baby in 2013, the Daily Telegraph mocked the photo under the headline “Spins & Needles”.

Albo’s recent weight loss, hip glasses and smart new wardrobe seem to have come at just the right time, and there is no sign yet of a backlash. Unless you consider Peta Credlin sniffing that Albo’s makeover “was no substitute for policy”.

On social media people were enthusiastic, asking is “Hot Albo” back?

Frying pan to fire

One of the faces that will become familiar to audiences as they follow the conflict in Ukraine is that of Misha Zelinsky, who is covering the invasion on the ground in Kyiv for the Australian Financial Review.

Zelinsky has transitioned with lightning speed from senior union figure to failed preselection candidate for Labor for the seat of Cunningham in the Illawarra to foreign correspondent.

Earlier this month he withdrew from the race for the safe NSW federal Labor seat to clear the way for political staffer Alison Byrnes to win the party’s nomination uncontested.

The former national assistant secretary of the Australian Workers Union is a Fulbright scholar and a foreign policy wonk, which will serve him well in his new role.

Caro time

Prominent media commentator and advertising guru Jane Caro is running for a NSW Senate seat with the Reason party, saying she is attempting the leap from commentariat to elected official because “it’s time to get shit done”.

A regular Sydney Morning Herald columnist and a panelist on ABC TVs Gruen show, Caro even has a Walkley award to her name after winning in 2018 for women in leadership.

“What worries me is we’re not going to be able to change the direction that we need on so many things if we have a progressive or more progressive House of Representatives and a reactionary and regressive Senate,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

Walkleys’ long wait

Speaking of the Walkleys, after two false starts and one year of virtual presentation due to Covid-19, the awards will be held on Friday night at the grand ballroom in the International Convention Centre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

There is intense competition this year around the coverage of the Brittany Higgins story, with news.com.au’s Samantha Maiden and The Project’s Lisa Wilkinson nominated in separate categories. Maiden is up for two awards, including coverage of a major event, and as such is a strong contender for the Gold Walkley.

The three finalists in the major event category all covered the same issue: the way women have been treated in federal politics. Louise Milligan and the Four Corners team have been nominated for the story that started it all, “The Canberra Bubble”, and Laura Tingle and James Elton have been nominated for their analysis of the issue on 7.30.

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