Meet Australia’s royal gossip queen

Written by By Staff Writer

Beth Harmon is essentially the royal gossip queen of Australia.

The freelancer has been a fixture of the Australian media landscape since the nineties, when she broke the news of the first serious sighting of Elizabeth II’s father, George VI.

From then on, Harmon has covered the royals, politicians and social events, making it clear that the title “aristocrat” doesn’t hold much currency for her.

She has decades of experience, including 14 years as a professional journalist (the remaining 13 as a freelancer), and often puts herself at risk to deliver some of the juicy stories that news outlets are perpetually yearning for.

Curious about why a British woman would choose to move to Sydney for 18 years and retrain in journalism? Me either, but many would assume that this is why.

When asked, Harmon offers a straightforward explanation: “I can’t tell you the real reason. It is just that I like it here. This is where I am. This is where I am living.”

Fame and big money

On average, Harmon sells between 500 and 700 articles a year, and nearly all of them are Murdoch-driven. Some articles are sold at knockdown prices, while she says that others garner her as much as A$60,000 (US$42,000) — “a million,” according to her husband, “maybe even A$100,000.”

But more than just money, she says, she loves the attention. “Everyone looks to me to be the queen of Australian media and I love that. I never thought I would be in the position that I am.”

She was so sure that she was going to fail that she gave herself a million dollar lottery win fund as a safety net.

She grew up in an upper-class Perth family and remembers having more money than sense. She’s resilient and a survivor, she says, having previously opened up about battling a mental illness and in 2006, being raped on live television while on a royal tour to Australia.

She managed to relaunch her journalism career from scratch — and she hasn’t looked back.

“It has taken me time to establish myself here as a freelancer, however,” she says. “Now that I have there is no going back.”

“I love the fact that my nephews and nieces get recognized if they wear a Matt Smith costume at the Grand Prix. It’s something I can’t imagine for other people.

“…I don’t care about money. I work for nothing. I feel that when I have money, if it’s not spent wisely, it’s wasted and I don’t want that.”

Murdoch’s touch

Harmon got to know Rupert Murdoch from when she was working at The Australian and her papers continue to be written by his daughter, Elisabeth.

After a promising start as an unpublished writer, Harmon’s flair for penning the story of an event became paramount in her career.

Her first big sale was of Brian Cathcart’s book “The Diary of Anne Frank: What a Journey”; others include numerous stories about Princess Diana, Princess Elizabeth and Helen Gurley Brown.

She’s also secured a high-profile role on Britain’s “Panorama,” which is often followed by Australian tabloid “9 News” where she provides commentary for interviews with senior politicians and heads of government.

“I’ve had a relationship with the Murdoch family for so long and I’ve had long terms of exclusivity with them and had relationships with other newspapers and other editors to whom I was sent to write,” Harmon says.

Her best story? “It’s usually not an Australian story. I don’t think Australians really care what happens with the royals.”

Her biggest blunder? “Going into any story I don’t know everything about.”

“People have expectations of me because of what I do and they always want something back from me.”

She has three children, all of whom are on her side.

Whatever, she says. She just loves the game.

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