AGE OF SHAM: Melbourne's failing newspaper lies to readers and imperils criminal trial as new Fairfax boss sharpens axe

The Age newspaper continues to embarrass itself in bungle after bungle, as industry observers believe new key stats on circulation reveal a devastating situation.

New Fairfax boss Greg Hywood is actively contemplating axing Paul Ramadge because the former newspaper editor believes Ramadge’s news-sense is “appalling”. Those familiar with the company say a replacement will be identified first, possibly groomed for a time and only when ready will be deployed, a process that might take some time even though the outcome is certain.

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For the re-launch of the “Saturday Age” which involved a re-formatting of the same thing, two major embarrassments left Ramadge as red-faced as when he appeared in all-lycra oufit in the hills of Tuscany in a full-length body-shot that was published in the Age years ago.

The first involved the front-page itself, which ignored the incredible flash floods that nearly ground Melbourne to a stand-still. Ramadge curiously buried the story on page three, some say because he’d failed to organise good art for the front even though even an online cadet armed with an iPhone could have got amazing pics of Spring Street, Chapel Street and other famous Melbourne thoroughfares being turned into a Venice of the south.

It was huge news in Melbourne and without question the biggest news, the most talked-about event going on and what everyone wanted to know about the morning after.

The Age missed it. We sometimes think we write about the Spencer Street Soviet too much so we held off on pointing it out but assumed there was some embarrassment over the lapse.

Staff there – frequently troubled by the constant threat of redundancies – fumed over the large sums of money wasted on the “re-launch” of what is a very old publication, complete with “badgers” and strange billboards declaring nothing more than “05.02.2010”. One said “If we can’t get the basics right of running a newspaper, why are we wasting money on re-launches.”

Indeed we heard there was even more trouble coming from Sydney  from those familiar with Hywood’s excoriating reaction. He knows Melbourne well and has given much thought to what to do about the Fairfax Victorian business including the imminent sacking of Don Churchill who is styled as the managing director of David Syme.

Then on Wednesday came the final proof that Saturday’s front-page was the subject of considerable regret.

The Age ran a little promo to encourage the people of the inner-city to part with a few shekels to receive the dubious pleasure of weekend home delivery of the left-wing publication.

In the wrap-around promo, it ran pictures of the Age front-pages of an old Sunday Age edition from last year and a Saturday Age edition from this past Saturday.

The former appears genuine.

The latter – we are shocked to report – is fake.

Rather than the front-page Ramadge was embarrassed about, which we have reproduced here, they have run a fake front-page with the flood story occupying the whole page as it almost certainly should have been if they’d had any idea or any interest what was going on in Melbourne.

This fake front-page was never printed.

The Age’s own archives confirm this fact, as does the newspaper collection at the State Library of Victoria.

So it remains to be seen whether the current Age editor Paul Ramadge can get out of jail with Greg Hywood or be sent to one by Justice Lasry.

When we asked an Age insider why he would have done this they shrugged their shoulder and said “Sh*t happens, perhaps he (Ramadge) was just trying to clean up his mess for once.” Another explained “There’d be a number of front-pages designed for Ramadge to look at, he seems to have wanted a do-over on this occasion.”

All very strange. And as thoroughly dishonest as we have come to expect from the discredited and dying newsaper.

The other incident arose relating to the Domain section of the newspaper.

For legal reasons we are unable to report on all the details of the delicious drama but we can disclose that on the Friday prior to the “re-launch” of the Saturday Age that editor Paul Ramadge was hauled before the Supreme Court judge Lex Lasry to explain why the newspaper was risking being in contempt of court by publishing a person’s address in breach of explicit suppression orders.

The judge is understood to have asked Ramadge not to distribute the offending part of the newspaper (which had already been printed), the brave editor declined saying he could not comply for commercial reasons.

Matters published in the Domain section of that newspaper could have had the effect of derailing a lengthy, high-profile and no doubt expensive criminal trial that has been going recently. VEXNEWS under-used lawyers say we shouldn’t say which trial because we shouldn’t make worse what Ramadge has already done.

So it remains to be seen whether the current Age editor Paul Ramadge can get out of jail with Greg Hywood or be sent to one by Justice Lasry.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “AGE OF SHAM: Melbourne's failing newspaper lies to readers and imperils criminal trial as new Fairfax boss sharpens axe

  1. ramadge damaged

    You’re right, he’s gone.

  2. first with the worst

    VEX is in pungent form so far this year. Keep it up as the viagra said to the bishop.

  3. the jooz

    Adrian Jackson is a cnut. Discuss.

  4. faark. these guys are hopeless. Hywood, a former Keating staffer who’s been cruising on the taxpayers’ teat for some years as boss of Tourism Victoria, will want to go through this mob like a dose of salts.
    and not just Churchill & Ramadge. Try Saturday Age editor Steve Foley – useless backside coverer; “Strategic publications editor” Sean O’Connor – worse than useless…the list goes on.

  5. not true

    for all his f^ck ups, this isn’t one. That’s a mock up of the paper which was used for weeks before the launch to demonstrate to advertisers, industry and staff what it would look like. It’s about the Brisbane floods – the tagline clearly says ‘Australia’s third-biggest city in crisis’. There’s a massive version of this mock up on the wall at the new age building. It’s not a re-do of the first Saturday’s paper it’s a pre-launch mock up using an old story. Just a coincidence the floods in Brisbane was the choice.

  6. Pingback: Slattsnews

  7. Anonymous

    Is The Age still publishing?

  8. Anonymous

    I was disturbed to read in big print on the front page of today’s Age that President Mubarak was refusing to quit.

  9. Princess Pine

    I fake it when I have to lie with Carolyn – the last time was in 2001.

  10. Anonymous

    Hywood should just hire the crew from the Herald Sun. They know how to bring out a superb, popular newspaper, and Simon is down with what young readers like. It’s so obvious a solution.

  11. Anonymous

    Agreed. Don’t even look at the circulation drop, which is the legacy of Guthrie years. Simon has kept the ship going and is re -building the paper. Biz section is a great example. It’s popular and comprehensible, not like the AFR-wannabe it was under its former broadsheet editor.

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