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    The Sydney Morning Herald puts Seven back on page 1 with ‘expenses affair’

    Just days after the Seven current affairs show Spotlight dominated the news cycle, the network is back on page 1 of a newsbrand owned by its main competitor Nine Entertainment.

    A front-page story in The Sydney Morning Herald is headlined “New Seven expenses affair rocks Sunrise, top network executives”.

    The byline features two investigative reporters – Nick McKenzie and Kate McClymont – plus Nine’s Publishing’s media writer Calum Jaspan.

    The Sydney Morning Herald puts Seven back on page 1 with ‘expenses affair’

    Page 1 of The Sydney Morning Herald today. The newspaper notes the Sunrise former hosts pictured with Michael Pell are not involved in any investigation. Top photo: Michael Pell and Bruce McWilliam

    The story centres around a feature being researched by the newspaper in October 2022:

    [A] message from veteran Seven commercial director Bruce McWilliam to journalist Zoe Samios accused her of driving Seven’s star executive producer Michael Pell to self-harm because she had asked questions about a secret fraud investigation overseen by a law firm and involving Seven’s flagship Sunrise program.

    “This is what your unfounded reports have caused Michael to do,” McWilliam emailed Samios, attaching a photo of a bloodied and bandaged Pell in a hospital gown and with a large gash on his forehead.

    “Why don’t you keep it up so he kills himself. You are a complete disgrace,” McWilliam continued.

    Samios is the newspaper’s former media writer and now works at The Australian Financial Review.

    The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

    Within hours, her story was shelved after consideration of Pell’s wellbeing.

    The journalists now report that the photo of Pell form 2022 was not linked to his response to any fraud investigation:

    The photo of the purported self-harm attempt was in fact an image taken several weeks earlier of an injury sustained by Pell after he had blacked out on a Los Angeles street.

    The Sydney Morning Herald notes today:

    In March 2022, Seven announced Pell’s departure from Sunrise to take up a key network role in Los Angeles, a move he described as a promotion. Pell would report directly to chief executive [James] Warburton, on the understanding he would be scouting for US shows to bring back to local audiences.

    The “expenses affair” features today fills two pages of The Sydney Morning Herald

    The article today also reports:

    There is no suggestion by [The Sydney Morning Herald] that Pell has deliberately engaged in wrongdoing.

    Pell has signed a non-disclosure agreement, meaning he can never talk about Seven.

    The article in The Sydney Morning Herald comes a day after it published an editorial published about chequebook journalism.

    The Australian reports today:

    The 600-word editorial, beneath a headline that read “Squalor of buying scoop undermines good journalism”, made no mention of Nine’s own decades-old practice of engaging in chequebook journalism, including massive payments [for interviews].

    Asked about the SMH editorial on Tuesday, a spokesman for Seven chief executive James Warburton said: “The recent allegations about Seven are unfounded and untested, and we have disputed them. People should always remember that The Sydney Morning Herald is owned by Nine, a direct rival to Seven, so it cannot be regarded as independent.

    The stories today come two days after unconfirmed reports Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton will depart the business next week. The Sydney Morning Herald reports today: “Warburton will … leave this month.”

    See also: Taylor Auerbach takes to the stand in Bruce Lehrmann trial

    The post The Sydney Morning Herald puts Seven back on page 1 with ‘expenses affair’ appeared first on Mediaweek.

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