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Global Mail teething: tensions and changes for Attard’s baby

Long-form journalism website The Global Mail is mulling a new direction, with senior management considering luring managing editor and ex-ABC star Monica Attard away from the day-to-day coalface in favour of a senior writing role.

Crikey has been deluged with rumours of tension in the site’s upper echelons, with Attard apparently at loggerheads with her CEO, former US-based People editor-at-large Jane Nicholls. Attard was not present at The Global Mail’s Macquarie Street offices this morning due to illness, although chairman and funder Graeme Wood was believed to be working out of the boardroom.

The Global Mail has a yearly budget of $3 million, drawn from Wood’s deep pockets that, according to BRW magazine, hold wealth valued at about $337 million. (Wood did not return Crikey’s calls.)

Attard clarified she was still in the managing editor’s chair when contacted this morning, saying she would make a few calls to investigate the claims. She later said the rumours were “news to me”.

The web-based not-for-profit was Attard’s brainchild — the former Media Watch host approached Wood after the Arab Spring with the idea for a new outwardly-focused Australian journalism venture to sidestep the banalities of the frenzied daily news cycle. She was impressed the progressive entrepreneur returned her call and its editorial development has been her baby ever since.

Attard has been intimately involved in the site’s physical build since the middle of last year when she shifted from the ABC’s Sunday Profile.

Tensions inside TGM are believed to have come to a head in recent weeks when Attard was asked to relinquish some control over the site to a leadership team rapidly coalescing around Nicholls (who is married to the site’s national affairs correspondent Bernard Lagan), photography director Mike Bowers, IT director Ben Fogarty and communications director Annmarie Jonson. The site’s “voices” page was recently updated to reflect the new structure.

Crikey understands Attard may now pursue The Global Mail’s European post, replacing or complementing current continental scribe Eric Ellis. Attard has a storied northern hemisphere history, having served as the ABC’s Russian correspondent where she won multiple Walkleys documenting the collapse of Communism.

Elsewhere on the site, the editorial talent is laid on thick with 13 correspondents stationed locally and around the world. Wood’s stepson Nick Olle, the son of the late Andrew Olle, is its Latin American correspondent with ex-Sydney Morning Herald writer Mike Seccombe toiling as the Australian business and economics point man.

Since its launch some features, such as the left-to-right scrolling, have chafed with readers, though it works better on iPads and other tablets. While some great pieces have been published others appear to have attracted only limited attention. Stories have been commissioned at a frenetic pace and there is believed to have been some rancour around the balance between quality and quantity.

The site has not released its Google Analytics figures, and is not participating in industry-standard Nielsen readership surveys.

Its high-powered editorial advisory committee includes Australian Financial Review editor-at-large Pam Williams, Propublica editor-in-chief Paul Steiger and former ACCC head Graeme Samuel.

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  • 1
    Sophie Goddard
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    That’s a pity - because I am loving The Global Mail - writing, format, photos and all. It is rare to find such lengthy well-researched journalism from any Australian site.

  • 2
    paddy
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    The Global Mail is a bloody sad example of truly atrocious web design.
    It’s not just the side scrolling, (yuck) the lousy formatting for IE & Firefox, makes it all but unreadable for me.
    Plus, the lack of interaction with its readers is a telling sign that it’s just not working.

    One of the most disappointing and frustrating online news sites out there.
    Such a wasted opportunity. I really hope they can pull it together and start again.

  • 3
    Just Me
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    It is rare to find such lengthy well-researched journalism from any Australian site.”

    Agree. Been some very good articles on their so far.

    Hope they can work through the teething troubles and settle down.

  • 4
    Just Me
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    er, ‘on there…’

    More coffee required.

  • 5
    archibald
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I can’t stand the formatting. If they can make it available in simple HTML I can resize to suit my screen and preferences and read top to bottom, I’ll read any articles I’m interested in but, as it stands, it is too frustrating to be bothered with.

  • 6
    DF
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I like the content and can live with the rest.

  • 7
    Gail
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Once I got used to the horizontal scrolling, I had no trouble with it. Do you really need every website to be identical apart from colour schemes and choice of images? I love it and read it most days - some great articles, often with interesting insight. I read it much the same way I read Crikey and New Matilda; for information, interest and insight that is not generally available in Australia. Since the ABC began its news-lite era - a useful addition for anyone that doesn’t need to know who had a boob-job, went on a diet or had an affair.

    Definitely outside the feeding frenzy driven, fact-free, no-news mainstream media.

  • 8
    Ian
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Every time I try to get onto the site I can’t. All I get is ” server not found”. Any ideas?

  • 9
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Cheers to Hamish McDonald for single handedly bringing us the truth of the obsenity of jailing Indonesia children in adult prison on a charges that do not exist anywhere in international law and actually are in breach of at least 7 treaties we have ratified.

  • 10
    AR
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I fear that it is too good for a large readership. Thus far the articles have been incisive, informative and interesting. I came to prefer the side scrolling, which initially irked me.
    I wish it well and would be prepared, on current evidence, to pay for its continued survival, as I do for Crikey.

  • 11
    Liamj
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to read it, but the ipad-favouring layout just doesn’t work on firefox. Favouring Apple, a DRM-policing NSA-collaborating gated community, is incomprehensible for a supposedly progressive endevour.

  • 12
    Gail
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    @LiamJ - the layout doesn’t really favour the iPad or any other tablet. In fact, it’s quite awkward on an iPad with the width:height ratio of the viewing area - you either get just under two columns or just under 3 columns. To get the full features of the site, it really needs a computer screen. There is no iPad or Android app for the site, which is hardly surprising as it’s a new venture. I think, to gain the full use on a tablet, it would need an app that is specific. As I noted in my previous post, it is a little different when you first start using it. Possibly because almost all other websites use the same page layout and people have become very used to that layout.

    I don’t mind something taking a more innovative approach to what can be done with a widescreen monitor. At least it uses the whole space available and doesn’t have a great blank down either side like almost every other website.

  • 13
    williams jason
    Posted Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Australian new media news ventures are technically weak - crikey, businessspectator, global mail. Any of these ventures in a previous time and place would have been published on paper and it seems a deliberate strategy by their old media journalist proprietors that they don’t do technology.

    Business spectator and crikey to some extent have journalists with an understanding of how to write for the screen and their niche audiences. The global Mail seems to have had a particular form of journalistic hubris right from the start - vanity publishing where the audience is the journalists themselves.

    Online, longform journalism works in hyperspeciaised vertical areas with deep audience connection and knowledge who want to read words from participants with journalist skills not journalists whose main skill is i’m a journalist .

  • 14
    by the sea
    Posted Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    when the rest of text based media is racing to the bottom both in presentation and content a few flag ships try for the top. Global mail is one of those. It is clunky, not unlike crikey on iPhone, crikey does for presentation what fairfax does for content. Euro based Intelligent Life seems to have got it sorted and has both content and presentation sorted out. Possibley the best thing on iPad today.

    This is no stranger to anybody with an IT person. If I leave/let them into my system for work it takes me hand fulls of hair to work out WTF they did. We are at the mercy of IT, the curse of IT kids who used to graduate to banks and insurance companies now are IT and killing me. The time to get quality graphic designers, web propeller heads and service providers to output something that works for me make me think that the kind of content and presentation of great reads have not made it onto new media. I will die out in 40 years so maybe it will not matter. I now subscribe to FT Weekend which arrives tuesday at my house, and use iPad stuff to noodle through like reading the paper my fish and chips came in.

    I will continue to read the GlobalMail if it does not die in childbirth. It has clearly identified the way forward but in terms of new media news portal it still a T-model Ford.

    I still miss the National Times..

  • 15
    Patrick Grant
    Posted Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    On a Windows based computer (both Windows 7 and XP) the font is difficult to read - patchy, thin and very unlike the font as seen on this page of Crikey. I have written to the Global Mail as feedback over a couple of months. There has been a response, but no action.

    The photographs which are superbly clear often are too large and only bits appear. Strange.

    Needs technical attention and perhaps the realisation that some will access the Global Mail on standard computers. Teething it is hoped. For to have such excellent journalists writing in almost unreadable font is a terrible waste.

    Patrick

  • 16
    floorer
    Posted Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I’m using Safari on iMac and have no problems. I have Google Chrome installed as well so if Safari has trouble with a site (rare) I just switch browser.This might help………… Actually just tried Chrome no problems.

  • 17
    Jean
    Posted Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I hope they have spent most of that 3 million a year on grog and overseas travel, and not wasted too much on the sanctimonious articles and the annoying site design.

  • 18
    Liamj
    Posted Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    @ Gail - i’ll take your word for not-ipad-optimised, my bad, but i’m using firefox on ubuntu and the header floater bar covers ~ 20% of the text & the like/tweet bar at bottom right another 10%! What i’ve been able to read is good, i’ll keep revisiting in the hope it becomes all readable.

  • 19
    Charles Kerr
    Posted Sunday, 6 May 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    The Global Mail is a site I rarely visit, though I would normally read cover to cover.

    But.

    Its.

    Just.

    Too.

    Hard.

  • 20
    James In Footscray
    Posted Monday, 7 May 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I think the Global Mail is the sort of media Finkelstein has in mind. Worthy, humourless, progressive (U.S. nuns fighting for social justice - yay!) and out of date (reflections on Breivik’s mental state - we saw this in The Punch three weeks ago).

  • 21
    Posted Monday, 7 May 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Sadly the remarkable - and quite rare - media philanthropy of Graeme Wood has been used to put together yet another conformist journal that recycles the same unquestioned myths as the rest of the mainstream and second rung media in Australia and shares the same blind spots.

    Two examples. If I currently wish to hear western propaganda about Syria steeped in the latest well- co-ordinated bias and filtered through Australian eyes, I currently have a fairly wide choice of very similar fodder. If I wish to read no reporting at all about the growing global movement of scientists, engineers, architects and other professionals demanding a proper investigation of the 9/11 atrocities I also have a wide choice of Australian media to choose from.

    On both of these litmus issues, the Global Mail simply provides more of the same. But then, Mr Wood has employed a swag of career-minded journalists who’ve already internalised the same verities as their peers - the very people who are letting us down so badly in general.

    It’s a shame. $3 million a year could really change the discourse in Australia on some of the key issues of the day and cast light on areas of great import, previously not illuminated. With campaigning journalism of the kind we DON’T have already, we might finally get a public inquiry (and/or a completed inquest) into the nation’s worst ever terrorist atrocity on home soil - and an inquest and/or public inquiry for the first time into the largest mass murder of the 20th century on Australian soil. Both these events, which occurred in 1978 and 1996 respectively, are among the most serious yet least investigated mass murders in Australian history. Neither have been resolved by the application of due process. Both have been designated for the Memory Hole by the conformists who dominate our mass media. Both cry out for crusading journalism.

    Anyone care to fund something useful for a change?

  • 22
    Posted Monday, 7 May 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    The left-to-right scrolling flummoxed me initially, but I think if you’re reading it on a tablet, or more specifically the iPad - which is probably the best format for long-form digital journalism articles - then the layout is exquisite. I adore the wide range of content, the non-insane conservative views that are intelligently argued (yes, I’m a Leftie) and the broad spectrum of topics they cover. Not a Kim Kardashian in sight. If Attard is responsible for such direction I think she’s doing a good job; having a ‘team’ in control makes it harder to maintain focus, so I’d like to think keeping Attard in place is the best thing for the publication as a whole.

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