Former Darwin Star editor,Neil Dibbs, sans beard,(right) is seen on a successful Pine Creek bottle digging expedition, with a scruffy, bearded individual who would have been quickly shown the door if he applied for a job as the janitor or frog tickler/ exterminator at the paper .
Additional intriguing information and documents have surfaced following previous posts in this ongoing series about Darwin’s newspaper wars which saw two media moguls slug it out .
First, it has been suggested that Darwin’s independent newspaper, The Star, locked in a battle for survival against the Northern Territory News in the early 1980s , may have survived had it held on for just one more month . Information has been received from a reliable source indicating that the Murdoch camp was increasingly concerned about the cost of the campaign to wipe out the newspaper which had been bought by South Australian transport and media millionaire , Allan Scott.
A sum of up to $180,000 , we are told, was set aside to achieve that goal , which involved setting up a free,home delivered weekly, The Darwin Sun, and slashing News advertising rates by half on six month contracts. The low rates not only hit The Star, they reduced the News revenue . The Star reverted to a biweekly , having become a triweekly ,with the announced intention to become a daily, a direct challenge to the NT News .
As a result of the war , we are further advised, it got to a stage where the News felt the cost was becoming too much. It was not known how deep were the pockets of Scott and his determination to keep the paper going. A moratorium or a truce were considered at the News in which both camps co-existed . The Star, however, was eventually sucked into an economic black hole, along with the Red Dwarf.
The second piece of information which surfaced relates to Scott and his dislike of people who wore beards. When the airconditioning broke down at The Star, a bearded technician , who knew Kerry and Sandra Byrnes, founders of the paper, was called in . He had the airconditioning plant in pieces when Scott drove up and asked him what he was doing. When he explained, Scott said it would be better for him to carry out the work in the Ascott truck depot .
The very next day, the electrician, now a Tennant Creek resident, was told his services were no longer required, firmly convinced he got the chop because of his facial fungus . Other sources have confirmed that Scott did not employ bearded drivers.
It is part of Sydney newspaper folklore that media tycoon Sir Frank Packer sacked a telegram delivery boy , paying him off on the spot , for riding up and down in the Daily Telegraph lift, believing he was one of the staff .
A similar event is said to have taken place here in Darwin when Scott noticed a man walking around outside his Berrimah truck depot building . A Telecom / Telstra employee , he was supposedly just walking around trying to work out where to carry out some work. Scott bounced out of the office and demanded to know what he was doing walking about and how long he had been working there. When the fellow said he had only been there one day , Scott sacked him on the spot and told him to see the accountant and get paid off. It is probably apocryphal, but it is claimed the man also got a week’s severance pay.
Scott kept an eagle eye on the cash flow in all of his ventures . The Australian Journalists’ Association advised that Scott was known to say sack a photographer or reporter when the balance sheet headed south. He also issued firm instructions to the Boarder Watch staff regarding his support for politicians and lines to take in editorial content. These instructions and staff resignations became the subject of public knowledge .
NEXT EDITION : Almost in the category of a Dead Sea Scroll, the yellowing typescript of a 30 year old article by that anonymous, annoying political Star writer , Pandanus, about a judge who reduced his Darwin audience to tears- with laughter.