From the Spencer Street bunker comes news that new Age editor, Andrew Jaspan, has hired a the deputy editor of his old paper, the Sunday Herald in Scotland, to be executive editor. His name is David Dick, 34, with a production background in sports. Fleet St sources say Dick and Jaspan are design men, who like pictures and graphics. This fuels rumours The Age could go tabloid. You can read an interview with Dick gushing about the new gig from a British media website here. The Age House Committee, meanwhile, has asked Jaspan to confirm the story as it is being seen as bad news for existing staff: “Having dumped one of his competitors for the top job, Paul Austin, the future of the other contender, managing editor Simon Mann, would appear to be equally uncertain,” says one insider.
The appointment is likely to further unsettle TheAge’s weary hacks who are on tenterhooks over Jaspan’s proposed changes to the paper. Senior staffers are grumbling that Jaspan’s got so many plans they don’t know if they’re coming or going, and no one can guess which idea will be dropped like a hot potato and which will actually materialise. One plan which is close to becoming a reality is a new “Creative Melbourne” section, expected to feature arts, architecture and a new media section to take on The Australian. Jaspan is eager to keep plans for the new section under wraps and has exhorted staff not to discuss it, which isn’t proving too hard given no one has quite got their head around what he wants or how it’s going to look.
Jaspan, meanwhile, has been spruiking his wares in industry newsletter Media Week, out today. He tells Media Week that he was attracted to The Age gig as “a chance to run one of the world’s great broadsheet newspapers.” And he has this to say about his predecessor: “Michael Gawenda ran the paper as editor for nearly eight years… There are not many papers in the world where the editor remains in place for seven or eight years. If I was to do three years here I would be delighted. After a period of time it’s sometimes good to get somebody with new vision and maybe a bit more energy.”
He told Media Week he’s not considering appointing an editor and that he “has a fantastic deputy who ran the paper in my absence, Simon Mann”.
“Because I am trying to get across so much, Simon very much runs the news side of things. I run all the conferences. Simon and I have completely reviewed the entire day news operation and we have changed a lot around.”
There’s been no change in The Age’s news gathering, he says, and he’s “certainly not going to suddenly set a tabloid news agenda.” Jaspan says ABC 774 morning presenter Jon Faine once told him people at 3AW like Neil Mitchell were obsessed by his ABC show. “He told me they live in two parallel universes. He has no interest in the audience that Mitchell targeted and that they both manage to co-exist very successfully. That’s the same thing I feel about The Age and the Herald Sun.”
So far Jaspan has made minor cosmetic changes to the paper. He recently introduced the Metro section to replace A3 and so far response to the new section has been lukewarm. He’s also moved Lawrence Money into a weekday gossip column with Suzanne Carbone. “There are a number of things we are looking at and until I’ve decided which ones I want there’s no point telling the staff or the opposition,” he tells Media Week. “Metro was one of the first things I wanted to do. It’s still not quite right and we are making some further changes,” Jaspan says.