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New Matilda near death, but saviours are sniffing around

Online news and comment publication New Matilda is on its last legs after editor and owner Marni Cordell pulled the plug. But there’s been interest in another revival.

New Matilda lost its already thready pulse yesterday. But there’s still hope for resuscitation.

Marni Cordell, the editor and owner of the scrappy independent media site, told readers yesterday she’d had enough:

I’ve come to the sad decision that I can no longer continue running New Matilda. It’s time for me to move on to a more stable job. I can’t afford another year.”

Cordell says she’s open to someone else taking over the outlet, and Crikey can reveal that she’s had several approaches in the past 24 hours. “I’ve had quite a few people emailing me,” she said. “I haven’t sat down and looked through them, but I’m planning to make some calls this afternoon. I’m keen to pass it on.”

But running a digital media outlet is difficult, she warns. “It looks great from the outside, but people often don’t know what’s involved,” Cordell told Crikey. She’s hoping to pass it onto a suitably savvy owner if she can.

Writing in Crikey in 2012, Gideon Haigh described New Matilda as an experiment in how cheaply a news outlet can be run, which Cordell wrote in her newsletter got to the heart of how she and her team did things. And its meagre pockets didn’t stop NM from breaking news of national significance. In 2011, the site published a story on the government’s contract with Serco to run some of Australia’s detention centres — a story widely followed up by national media at the time.

Asked what she’s most proud of from her time at NM, Cordell nominates that scoop, as well as the site’s broader coverage of immigration and asylum seekers. “From the day we published that contract, we were ahead of the game,” she said.

Paul Farrell, now a journalist with Guardian Australia who worked on the contract scoop for New Matilda, says it wasn’t just the stories that made the site unique. “It’s quite hard breaking through when you’re a student and a young journalist,” he said. “New Matilda offered those kinds of opportunities and gave support to younger journalists. It certainly meant a lot to me. It gave me opportunities to write stories and do investigations I thought were important.

Considering New Matilda had a miniscule budget compared to just about everyone, I think they made a real impact in a lot of areas.”

Publishing new talent proved a blessing and a curse. Cordell says it’s why so many of New Matilda’s best have been picked off by other outlets — a fact mentioned in her letter to readers:

Recently key staff have been poached by outlets that are able to pay much more than we are. That’s put NM in a position that it can’t recover from.”

Deputy editor Adam Brereton has recently been appointed deputy comment editor at Guardian Australia, and former managing editor Catriona Menzies-Pike left some months ago to head up The Conversation’s arts coverage.

It’s a good sign —  New Matilda is doing good work, and that’s getting noticed by other people,” Cordell said. “It’s no one’s fault that people are getting jobs elsewhere. New Matilda has been a training ground for young journalists.”

It’s a training ground likely to go, unless a suitable owner and manager is found. In 2010New Matilda was saved from closure by a crowdsourced fundraising drive. But whether New Matilda will find its white knight this time around remains to be seen.

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  • 1
    paddy
    Posted Tuesday, 6 May 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Bloody sad to see it go. :(

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