Saturday, March 28

Strewth! Has the Australian sacked its veteran columnist?

No hint in yesterday's [Friday, March 27]Australian – yet it appears that as this Strewth! column was being printed, editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell had sacked its author and told him to leave the building immediately without clearing out his desk.

The sacking ends a remarkable father-and-son involvement in column writing which began in 1946. More of that later.

First public hint of D.D. McNicoll's sacking appeared in the backpage Diary of yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald, in the paragraph below. Somebody at the Oz, probably outraged by the treatment of McNicoll, had wasted no time in calling the Fairfax rival.

This morning I did a Google search and found that's editor, veteran journalist Jonathan Green, had posted this at 4.46 pm yesterday.

D.D. McNicoll sacked at The Australian?
An anonymous tip just sent to Crikey:
From an informed source: D.D. McNicoll sacked yesterday from The Australian. Told to leave the building immediately not even given time to clear out his desk. Today is his 60th birthday. Redundancy at News Ltd capped at 1 year. McNicoll has been there 35 years. They did not even spell his name correctly on the form he was told to sign.
Nice people
Morale not good

I'm posting this before I look closely at this morning's newspapers. If I find more information when I do, I'll come back and revise the post.

I'll also look closely at the Media section in Monday's Australian – will it carry a full and honest account of McNicoll's sacking, and will the section's editor and columnists have had to resist management pressure if they do so? If Media does not publish such an account, it will damage the reputation of the newspaper and of the section.

Now back to the father-and-son connection. D.D's father, David McNicoll, wrote this in his autobiography, Luck's A Fortune (Wildcat Press, 1979):

THE TOWN TALK COLUMN in the Sydney Daily Telegraph was the first regular front page column to appear in an Australian paper. It's a sobering thought, but I probably made as much public impact, and caused more controversy with that column than with any of my other labors in journalism over the years.
The column was the brain child of Frank Packer and editor Brian
Penton. They had seen many columns of various sorts over the years — political, comment, humorous. But Packer wanted a column of news — part gossip, part political, part exposures, part insertion of the scimitar. My style of writing appealed to them as right for the new project.
On returning to New York from South America I found a cable from Packer telling me of the proposal, and suggesting I study a few American techniques.

And a little further into the autobiography:

Back in Sydney, Brian Penton put me through a few dummy runs inside the paper, and subbed specimen columns for a few weeks. He was a brilliant writer of the concise, short sentence, and he drilled it into me. He was also the father of the Active Voice in the Daily Telegraph. Anyone who ever worked on the Telegraph knew all about the active voice; the passive was never allowed . . .
On February 8, 1946, the first Town Talk column appeared. The previous day, a young, virtually unknown artist had been sent to do a caricature of me.
His name was Les Tanner. He is today, without dispute, peerless as a caricaturist, and in the top ranks as a cartoonist. His depiction of my features gave me all the attraction of a gigolo turned pawnbroker who has just received some devastating news. The worst part was that the drawing was apparently incredibly like me, and people recognised me with a shudder as they passed me in the street.

Tanner later drew this caricature of himself holding the McNicoll caricature:

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