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Guthrie v News

Bruce Guthrie spent four decades in newspaper journalism including editorships of the Melbourne Age, the Sunday Age, the Weekend Australian magazine, Who Weekly and the Melbourne Herald Sun.

He succesfully sued Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd for wrongful dismissal after he was sacked as editor-in-chief of the Herald Sun in 2008.

He’s now written a book about the saga: Man Bites Murdoch: Four Decades in Print, Six Days in Court.


Bruce Guthrie
Former editor of the Melbourne Herald Sun

Title: Man Bites Murdoch: Four Decades in Print, Six Days in Court.
Author: Bruce Guthrie
Publisher: Melbourne University Press

Listen HERE

Excerpts, indirect quotes

Bruce Guthrie, above, to Fran Kelly:

I got the job right and the politics wrong.

The culture is a fatal area in New Ltd. In News Ltd it was not the journey ... it was the destination.

In his last five years at News Ltd he became aware that there were virtually no processes.

News Ltd was a very outcomes focused company ... “so because there are no processes… you ended up with controversies such as the Melbourne Storm salary cap rorts controversy” and “I guess you end up with my court case.”

“They’re not big on crossing the Ts and dotting the Is ... they’re just interested in outcomes.”

Guthrie says his dismissal coincided with Rupert Murdoch’s annual arrival in Australia ...“within days of his arrival I was gone.”

Guthrie says there were three fundamental reasons for his dismissal:

1. A personality clash with former Herald Sun Editor Peter Blunden (who had become managing director).

2. Guthrie’s decision to reveal that a powerful establishment figure (then Police Commissioner Christine Nixon) had taken a Qantas junket to New York (She was apparently a friend of a Murdoch relative): “I pursued the wrong person”.

3. “Rupert Murdoch felt in the mind to get rid of me ... he’s a bit like that.”

Guthrie is scathing about what makes a Murdoch Man. In the book he says the most highly regarded people in News are little more than Murdoch robots programmed to consider him first and the issues second.

“The ones Rupert prizes the most are the ones who might struggle to rise in other organisations; even better if they know it ...”

Fran Kelly asked Guthrie if Rupert Murdoch had anything to say to him about the editorial direction of the Herald Sun: “No he didn’t”.

“What I’m saying is that for the long-serving Murdoch Men - and they are mainly men; it’s a boys’ club - they’re first thought is, ‘What will Rupert think of this?; whether it’s a story, whether it’s a decision to launch a new section, whether it’s a leader on election eve; it’s almost instinctive ... second-guessing the boss ... and it flows from there: You second-guess Rupert, you second-guess John Hartigan, you second-guess corporate partners ... is this going to upset anyone? ... and once you have cleared all those hurdles you go with the story.”

Guthrie says Rupert Murdoch is on record as saying that talent is not the main thing; loyalty is the main thing; absolutely unyielding loyalty ... and “I think that is what drvies News Ltd culture and when you come into it from outside there is at best a small-town mentality - ‘Oh, you’re new around here ... you’re not from around here are you?’.  At worst it’s almost like a secret society ... if you are not part of the family it’s ver very hard to break in.”

Guthrie also commented on the recent Federal Election ... and particularly the Australian’s “relentless and unbalanced” attack on Kevin Rudd; inferring that Australian Editor-in-Chief Chris Mitchell “fell out of love with Kevin Rudd” ... and that was the end of K Rudd ...

*The Editor was a Mercury (News Ltd) hack for 23 years, but never a “Team Player”, believing too doggedly in the Friedrich Nietzsche maxim:
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.
If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened.
No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself.