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Attard out as Global Mail editor amid crisis talks

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.

Update:

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.

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  • 1
    Edward James
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Well for me that grey self promotional banner right across the photo story links obscuring every one of the stories in the left to right scroll. While I am trying to search left to right it is in the way and annoying. Do the people who own The Global Mail site actually visit and use it ? How hard would it have been to have the web site builder have that annoying overlay go away the moment any visitor clicked the search arrow? Edward James

  • 2
    Catebla
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Interesting to me that Lagan is Nicholls’ husband. For me he is the weakest link in the site. And, agree, the horizontal scrolling is irritating but you can still read it. Some excellent postings but also patchy.

  • 3
    Ned Sarko
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    What fool put that lot in the same room?

  • 4
    NeoTheFatCat
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Interestingly, the sideways scroll is completely normal on an iPad (my preferred reading device) where flicking left and right through content is the norm. But I agree it becomes weird on a desktop/laptop.

  • 5
    Edward James
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Yes but is there a way to loose the grey banner which covers so much of what is on half assed offer? IPad or whatever Edward James

  • 6
    Space Kidette
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    The Global Mail will fail. It is a boring as batshit read. Dressed up prestigious, but really the level of research is the same as the tabloids.

  • 7
    AR
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I fear that it will go the way of every other attempt at quality journalism in this country - Nation Review, original National Times, the various Matildas, even the Bully which went so far downmarket that it disgusted erstwhile readers who didn’t move their lips when thinking.
    The simple fact is that quality is expensive and of minority appeal - else the Hun & Terror wouldn’t be the biggest selling papers and channels 7,9 & 10 would be holding bake sales.
    Vale it was a brave attempt and we’ll wait long for the next, doomed attempt.

  • 8
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    It is sad to see any new Australian medium in trouble; we need more, not less media diversity.

    To avoid any accusation that I’m just a stuck record, I won’t repeat in full the case I made in my comment on Crikey’s previous article about the woes of The Global Mail.

    Suffice it to say that more diversity is needed, first and foremost, to break the stifling conformity of the media as it currently exists in Australia, in which certain identifiable topics appear to be off-limits for all journalists in an elaborate self-censorship process that Eric Blair would have appreciated (he was forced to do much the same thing while working for the BBC in the early 1940s, and wrote up much of that experience in fictional form as ‘1984’).

    The Global Mail under Monica Attard’s leadership showed no signs of breaking new ground. Anyone familiar with Attard could never have expected a different outcome. I’m sure she’ll be welcome to rejoin her fellow conformists at the ABC, News Corp or whatever.

    To make a real difference, to get widely noticed and to garner real respect, The Global Mail needs to enter some uncharted waters. A new skipper does make sense - but simply picking another editor from a similar mould would lead, I fear, to much the same outcome.

  • 9
    Aka
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    My problem with global mail was that it seemed to have missed the memo about inter activity. It had that old we are the gate keepers of information feel . I never felt they wanted to hear what we thought. We were expected to just sit quietly and cop their collective wisdom. Shame really could have been a lively site . It is easy to.monitor comments so they don’t contain abuse and

    ad hominem attacks.
    It is all but impossible to read on a smart android phone. Contrast its crappy architecture with the hoopla or the conversation. Attard was running it she has to wear the approbium. The conversation does it so much better.

  • 10
    Aka
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Forgot to mention the unreadable type face. New broom has lots of sweeping to do.

  • 11
    Michael de Angelos
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    The Global Mail is a terrific net publication but I do find the ‘scrolling’ left to right articles difficult to read and a bit of a gimmick not needed.

    On a practical level it also doesn’t allow them to utilise their front page and promote what are very good articles.

  • 12
    Michael de Angelos
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    NB: after reading the Global Mail on an Ipad I now see a benefit to the side to side scrolling. By removing your top banners it is also easier to read on a laptop.

  • 13
    Stiofan
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    So Mr Wood sacked Ms Attard because he didn’t like the way she was running HIS paper?

    No doubt the Greens will rush to denounce this interference with editorial independence…

  • 14
    listohan
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    It would be nice if the critics were more constructive in their criticism; examples possibly? “I never felt they wanted to hear what they thought”; please explain. Not even in Letters or on Facebook?

    The appeal of the Global Mail’s interface is in the eye of the beholder. This beholder is very much in favour of the “courageous” page design. I have experience with both an iPad 2 and a 24” iMac. While the iPad is good those using this platform miss out on the scrolling current news and the reference to stories in other media across the bottom of the window. I prefer the iMac with the window at maximum size; a 27” iMac would be really special. Try using the right arrow to scroll through the story and Instapaper to enjoy reading long pieces offline.

    An rss feed would be nice.

  • 15
    listohan
    Posted Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Oops! More (unfair) criticism. There IS and rss feed.

  • 16
    Aka
    Posted Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Dear listohan. I know this may come as a shock but not all of us have an IPad. I read most of my stuff on a HTC hd smart phone and global mail is impossible. It is the height of ignorance (arrogance?) to not understand multi platform designs . as for.interfacing on facebook again you don’t understand modern media in which good ones encourage immediate engagement and discussion. .

  • 17
    listohan
    Posted Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    When it comes to arrogance, it takes one to know one. My comment was directed to those who were commenting on the iPad experience. I am sorry that was not obvious. It would not be much fun on a 9” Mac either. Why not have a whinge about people who don’t have access to the internet at can’t access the Global Mail at all?

    Are you saying media outlets which moderate are not “modern media”? You might be right, but that is the policy of some of the bigger ones. Have you shared your views with them?

    Given the limitations of your favourite device, have you tried Instapaper?

  • 18
    Aka
    Posted Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I am not talking about old media which is where global mail resides at the moment . It has an arrogant air of handing down wisdom and we should all cop it sweet. Full of old media hacks who are part of reason old media is dying. A lively serious site seeks intelligent interaction from readers. When I ran a column for a msm newspaper many years ago u quickly discovered the readers were more interesting than me . Global Mail should be leading discussions.

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