In a move that’s sure to upset countless readers, Age editor Andrew Jaspan has sacked long-running columnist Danny Katz. Katz, who has had a weekly column with The Age for nine years and also writes the Modern Guru column in Good Weekend, told Crikey this morning he’s “shocked and bewildered” by the decision.

“I’ve
just been given my marching orders and that’s all I know,” he said.
“I’m right in the middle of it and just trying to get more information.
It’s half amazing.”

Katz had built a strong following for his
whimsical brand of humour, with dozens of readers writing to the paper
every week to praise his off-beam observations and a quirky writing
style that included FREQUENT USE OF CAPS TO EMPHASISE A POINT. Several
senior Age editors believe the decision will hurt the paper and are lobbying hard to have him reinstated.

According
to sources at the paper, Katz was dumped over this sentence in Crikey’s
“What The Paper’s Say” section a couple of weeks ago:

“Meanwhile over at The Age, a column by Danny Katz’s runs under the intro: ‘It’s easy lounging around all day writing nonsense for newspapers’.”

Apparently
Jaspan “just flipped,” says one source at the paper. “He just saw that
and he was livid.” Jaspan recently told an interviewer on ABC Radio
National that he doesn’t read Crikey because it would only make him
upset. But he also recently became so incensed by the Crikey coverage
he doesn’t read that he read the riot act to a group of stunned senior
editors and threatened to “frog march” out of Spencer Street anyone
caught talking to Crikey.

There is some hope for Katz. Sharon
Gray, author of a popular “Personal Space” column, was also a victim of
the Jaspan axe – until the paper was ininduated by letters and phone
calls protesting the decision, which caused Jaspan to reinstate the
Gray column.

Jaspan, meanwhile, has been busy courting replacements. Earlier this year Crikey’s Stephen Mayne was asked to write a column in The Age’s
proposed new media section, but all seems to have gone quiet in recent
weeks. Could that have something to do with Crikey’s recent coverage?
Jaspan also approached ABC radio presenter Jon Faine to write a media
column, but the presenter turned him down, a snub that places him in
the company of Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt and Cameron Stewart, Associate Editor of The Australian, both of whom have also rejected substantial offers from the out-of-town editor.