Monica Attard has been moved aside from her position as founding editor of fledgling journalism website The Global Mail.
Crikey can reveal that Attard has been involved in crisis talks with senior management in recent days — including chairman Graeme Wood and CEO Jane Nicholls — to discuss her future after festering tensions came to a head last week in an office showdown.
A statement on the change is expected tomorrow, with a range of options being canvassed, including a possible stint as a senior writer or even an “associate editor” or “editor-at-large”. Nicholls is expected to act as fill-in editor while new talent is sought. But it would appear a torrent of bad blood will need to be skirted first and there is a possibility Attard might not re-emerge.
The one-time Media Watch host is now said to be awaiting an “acceptable form of words” from Wood and Nicholls to announce the change, just 12 weeks after the site launched.
Crikey understands Attard, a popular former ABC star, was involved in crisis talks on Friday with Wood after a report in Friday’s Crikey email edition exposed the workplace edginess that had exploded between her and the site’s management team. She has not been sighted at TGM’s Macquarie Street bunker since Thursday night.
On Friday evening, staff celebrated web producer Joel Tozer’s nomination for a Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award in the office without Attard, who had told Crikey she was sick. At lunchtime on Friday, Attard said the suggestion she was about to leave her current gig was “news to me” and referred further queries to Wood. Wood has repeatedly ignored Crikey’s calls.
While the specific flashpoints behind the move are yet to be detailed, Crikey has been told that Attard’s management style chafed with senior contributors and managers.
Multiple sources have alleged the multiple Walkley winner, who declined to comment this morning, was reluctant to extensively consult and commissioned stories at a frenetic pace, sometimes at the expense of quality. Editorial meetings were irregular.
Another source questioned whether it was the right move for someone ensconced in the ABC for so long to take on the tricky task of managing a group of unpredictable journalists while simultaneously commissioning copy.
Another sore point can be traced to the site’s genesis. Attard has said in interviews that The Global Mail was her baby and that she had initially approached Wood with the idea, however Crikey understands the BRW Rich Lister had begun plotting a media arm at least three years ago and that several potential editors were previously approached for the position. It was then put on the backburner for 18 months.
The Global Mail, touted as a worldly off-cycle long-form journalism outlet of peerless quality, kicked off in February with Mike Seccombe as business correspondent and Nicholls’ husband Bernard Lagan as national affairs reporter. A powerful management team has recently coalesced around Wood, Nicholls, photography director Mike Bowers, IT director Ben Fogarty and communications director Annemarie Jonson.
Nicholls — who returned from the New York office of People magazine to take the Global Mail’s reins — has reportedly become irritated at the lack of traction in social media and the opinion cycle since its February launch. Some readers have given TGM’s trademark left to right scrolling feature the thumbs down.
A large slab of momentum for the change appears to have come from Nicholls, who once served under Bruce Guthrie and is schooled in the hard-boiled world of cut-throat US magazines.
An email sent to Nicholls this week was not returned.
An email was sent out by The Global Mail’s communications director this evening confirming Attard’s departure:
The Global Mail announced today that Monica Attard, having served as founding Managing Editor for the conception and launch phase of The Global Mail, will be leaving the publication.
The Global Mail chairman Graeme Wood thanked Monica for her tremendous assistance and vision in the start-up phase of the organisation’s development.
CEO of The Global Mail, Jane Nicholls, will step in as interim editor.