The Spunky New Face of the 'Post'

Murdoch Picks His Mates

Everyone knows the New York Post can be a great read, and we hear it's a fun place to work these days, especially if you're from Australia or the U.K. But staffers at the titillating tabloid also know that anyone can be fired for any reason at any time.

In early February, the Voice can now reveal, Post editor in chief Col Allan abruptly fired Sunday editor and longtime Post veteran Marilyn Matlick, apparently because she was too feisty and butted heads with the boss. The acting Sunday editor is now Geoff Stead, who hails from the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia, where Allan previously ran the show. Indeed, the Aussie mentality is now so entrenched at the Post that the standard newsroom greeting is "G'day, mate!"

And a g'day it is for Post chairman Lachlan Murdoch, whose father, Rupert, has given him free rein to do what it takes to make the Post profitable. It's been almost a year since young Murdoch picked Allan to replace former editor in chief Xana Antunes.

This past June, Allan fired the first round of staffers who didn't fit the new Murdoch agenda. At the time, several Yanks benefited, including Jonathan Auerbach, now of CNN, who became assistant managing editor, and Jesse Angelo, who became city editor. Matlick was named Sunday editor, and Stead became her assistant.

Young Murdoch's influence began to show last fall, when the Post announced that circulation had increased 22 percent for the six-month period ending September 30. Weeks later, Lachlan let on he had hired more foreigners to help make the transition to a full-color press. "We really dropped the ball for a while," he told The New York Observer, "because we weren't leveraging our skill sets in the U.K. and Australia."

Today, the Aussie/Brit invasion continues. In addition to Aussie Allan, the Post now employs Brit Colin Myler, who was formerly with the London Sunday Mirror and is now managing editor for news, Australian general manager Geoff Booth (formerly of Murdoch's Herald Sun in Melbourne), and Brit photo editor David Boyle (formerly of Murdoch's London Sun). Australian feature writer Megan Turner has just been elevated to film critic, and her friend John Lehmann, who came from the Daily Telegraph, was last spotted covering the Olympics.

Some say the newsroom always had a strong mix of Brits and Aussies, and that it is equally dominated by male Americans, including the Page Six, TV, business, and sports editors. Several female editors work there, too, the most favored said to be features editor Faye Penn. And don't forget managing editor Joe Robinowitz, who calls himself "Murdoch's only Texas Jew," or Asian deputy managing editor Tommy Ko.

But if it's such a gorgeous mosaic at Lachlan's Post, why is Matlick getting the boot? She started at the paper more than 25 years ago as a copy girl. One night in 1983, editors sent her to a Bronx bar where the bartender had been decapitated, asking her to find out if it was a topless bar. When the answer finally came back "yes," a roar went up in the newsroom, and a famous headline was born: "Headless Body in Topless Bar."

After years on the assignment desk, Matlick became a big cheese a few months ago, when she got the Sunday editor job and her own office two doors away from Allan's. But before long, insiders say, she was fighting "an uphill battle" because "she has her own ideas about things" and the Australians "like things more light-hearted."

In early February, according to a Post spokesperson, Matlick's bosses "felt they needed to make an editorial change." They offered to let her keep her salary and become associate metro editor, which she declined. Then they "invited her to suggest other roles she could fill." She didn't want to work nights because she has children—and when she asked to remain Sunday editor, they showed her the door. Cheers!

Matlick and her attorney, Arlene Kayatt, declined to comment.

John Fund, Come Clean

It's already been reported that former Wall Street Journal editorial page editor John Fund was arrested on February 23 for assaulting Morgan Pillsbury, a young woman who lived with Fund for several months last year. But in an exclusive interview with the Voice, the woman's mother, Melinda Pillsbury-Foster, told her version of the incident, which she claims began last week when Fund demanded that her daughter retract published allegations of abuse, and ended with Fund hiding out in the bathroom of the conservative Manhattan Institute.

The arrest is the denouement of a bizarre love story that began in 1998, when Fund first bedded Morgan, whose mother he had had an affair with some years ago in California, when she was active in the Libertarian Party. Morgan got pregnant, and Fund insisted that he and Morgan were never involved. Piqued by his denial, the daughter secretly taped an intimate conversation with Fund, a transcript of which appeared on last fall.

In ensuing months, the daughter continued living with Fund, and the mother vacillated, first offering to pay for their wedding and then issuing a press release claiming that Fund had been emotionally and physically "abusive." Page Six and The Washington Post recapped the story in January.

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