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May 4, 2012

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

The Global Mail is mulling a new direction, with senior management considering luring managing editor Monica Attard away from the day-to-day coalface in favour of a senior writing role.

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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.

Andrew Crook —

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

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22 thoughts on “Global Mail teething: tensions and changes for Attard’s baby

  1. Syd Walker

    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?

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