By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Man Bites Murdoch: Four Decades in Print, Six Days in Court
By Bruce Guthrie (Melbourne University Publishing, $29.99, softcover, 354 pages)
Bruce Guthrie, former editor and print journalist for 40 years, has been in the box seat and witnessed some of the most tumultuous periods in the newspaper industry.
He became the ‘news’ after being sacked as editor-in-chief of Rupert Murdoch’s biggest selling and most lucrative Australian masthead – the Melbourne Herald Sun – on 10 November 2008.
Guthrie turned the tables upside down when he sued his boss for unfair dismissal and won his David and Goliath battle against News Limited. A Supreme Court judge ruled the media giant had breached his contract by dismissing him.
Man Bites Murdoch not only details his experiences with the Murdoch ethos, but also cites another tough ride through a distressingly chaotic period for the Fairfax Group as editor of The Age, Melbourne.
This is an exceptional insider’s memoir, resplendent with personality clashes and the behind-the-scenes, double-dealing interactions. Inexorably linked are the six days in the Victorian Supreme Court in April-May 2010 after his bitterly contested case attracted nationwide interest.
Guthrie was successful in getting a very small “bite” out of News Ltd: a decent $665,000, plus costs, but in the process he delivered a huge sting through the court judgement that ‘shredded’ some senior Murdoch executives for their extraordinarily incompetent conduct in the witness box. Some “evident lack of care” was noted in evidence to court.
Included are some juicy backhanders, trying to elucidate how Murdoch influenced the tone of his papers.
Guthrie talks of the “glory days” of newspapers when he became an editor in 1987 when the reader was the one stakeholder. The newspaper industry has changed drastically over the years, with advertising becoming important in the ‘90s, followed by big companies who owned newspapers seeking more profits.
Guthrie says that the new digital platforms are no longer threats to the business, but instead are the business, providing the best chances of print surviving in a profitable form.
“The goal must be to create compelling journalism across all the platforms available to publishers: newsprint, mobile, tablet and internet. Each has to be distinctive, but complementary.” Take note.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.