Newspapers tackle Matthew Freud's divorce with varying gusto

The news that Freuds founder Matthew Freud and his wife Elisabeth Murdoch are to divorce was covered in rather different ways depending on Fleet Street allegiances.

Matthew Freud: One half of a couple estimated to be worth £250m

Freud married the eldest daughter of media mogul Rupert Murdoch 13 years ago and the pair were frequently recognised as a media power couple due to Freud's PR nous and Elisabeth's connections and role at the helm of television production company Shine, which she recently sold to her father's company.

Our round-up of how four different newspapers covered the story illustrates the differences between the Murdoch press and the rest of Fleet Street.

The Mail on Sunday

The Mail on Sunday’s coverage centred on the so-called "war of attrition" between Freud and Rupert Murdoch, with Elisabeth Murdoch caught in the middle.

It quoted unnamed sources and "family friends" to build up a picture of Matthew Freud as a long-standing close friend of Tony Blair.

The paper claimed that when it emerged that Rupert Murdoch’s now ex-wife, Wendi Deng, developed a "crush" on the former prime minister, which ultimately led to her divorce, Freud backed Blair and Deng as part of a proxy-war against Rupert.

Its coverage highlighted how Freud banned Rupert Murdoch from his 50th birthday party last year while inviting the Blairs and how the first sign his marriage with Elisabeth was on the rocks came this year when the couple failed to show at Cherie’s 60th birthday party.

A ‘source’ claimed Freud had sent "crazy 3am emails to Rupert Murdoch making all sorts of accusations" while the ‘family friend’ was quoted saying "no couple could survive" the emotional pressures Freud and Elisabeth had been under in recent years.

The Telegraph

The Telegraph’s coverage recycled much of The Mail on Sunday’s version of the story, including quoting the paper’s ‘family friend’ source that "no couple could survive" the pressure Freud and Elisabeth had been under.

It took a more cautious line on the causes of the marital breakdown and referred to "an alleged family feud" between Freud and his father-in-law over Freud’s loyalty to Tony Blair during the breakdown of Murdoch’s marriage to Wendi Deng last year.

The Telegraph also referenced Freud banning Murdoch from his birthday party last year along with a subsequent statement he issued about his father-in-law.

The statement referred to how he and Murdoch "both love his daughter and his grandchildren, if not always each other".

The Sunday Mirror

The Mirror used the expertise of tabloid economy to write up the entire story in six paragraphs. It stated that the pair are to divorce and are expected to be granted a decree nisi to legally end their marriage this week.

It also stated, baldly, that the divorce followed a family feud between Freud and Rupert Murdoch with Elisabeth "caught in the crossfire" before deploying the ‘family friend’ quote, uncredited this time, that "no couple could survive" the pressures they were under.
The Sunday Times

The paper is, perhaps understandably, the most cautious in its reporting of Freud’s divorce from Elisabeth. It quoted the Mail on Sunday as the source of its story that the couple are to be granted a decree nisi this week.

Its story said "it was not possible to reach [Freud or Elisabeth] at the time of going to press" for a response.

A short history of the couple’s relationship followed before a cautious foray into the causes of the breakdown in which "reports" of Elisabeth being caught in the crossfire of the dispute between Freud and Murdoch were referred to.

The ‘family friend’ source was not used but the paper did use the statement Freud issued after his birthday last year.

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