In the early hours of Tuesday morning in the Sydney CBD, a hostage crises ends in a hail of gun fire, killing three people including the gunman and injuring several others. A dark end to a trying day, a city starts to process its grief as it wakes up to tragedy.
And the greatest news Paul Whittaker has ever received in his life.
The editor for the Daily Telegraph has just gotten off the phone to well wishes from News Corp Australia, celebrating the good news.
“I’m sorry if I get too emotiona,l” Paul apologised as he dabs his eyes with a handkerchief. “The news is just too exciting.”
“I honestly wasn’t expecting it. I mean every journalist dreams of this honour. It just doesn’t feel real, you know?”
The coverage of Sydney’s siege, in which lone gunman Man Haron Monis took the workers and customers of a Lindt Café in Martin Place hostage for 16 hours has brought out the best and the worst in Australian news coverage, but only one really impressed the judges at Rupert Murdoch’s mansion.
Rupert tweeted: “AUST gets wake-call with Sydney terror. Only Daily Telegraph caught the bloody outcome at 2.00am. Congrats.”
If you want to familiarise yourself with the bloody outcome that only the Daily Telegraph managed to catch, you can watch it on the ABC News’ website.
Known by his colleagues as “Boris”, Whittaker’s glory does not end with his paper being mentioned by Mr Murdoch. The Daily Telegraph was also the only news paper brave enough to rush out a 2pm afternoon edition with the headline: “DEATH CULT CBD ATTACK”.
While there were multiple factual errors with the story –for example, linking the hostage situation to the ISIS ‘death cult’ with zero evidence — these are the risks one takes when newspapers make the brave step to capitalise on people’s worst fears to increase circulation. What’s impressive is how much the Daily Telegraph got correct despite the incredible deadline, through the sheer talent of its journalists under the wise, guiding leadership of Mr Whittaker. The hostage situation did indeed occur in the CBD.
It seems even when publishing at the last minute, the Daily Telegraph retains the same commitment to the facts that it always has.
Matthew Farthing is the Media Editor for The (un)Australian. He once played a very passive-aggressive game of ‘Parcheesi’ with Sharri Markson. Follow him on Twitter.