There are lots of stories around today about why Robert Whitehead quit as editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, but one that stinks is that advanced in the official explanation from Fairfax and its chief operating officer, Brian Evans.

The laughable part of the statement is this quote:

Fairfax’s chief operating officer, Brian Evans, said
yesterday Mr Whitehead wanted to return to the commercial side of the
business, and would become director of marketing and newspaper sales
for the Herald and The Sun-Herald.

Now, I may be an old fart having been a
journalist for 36 years, but I have never, ever known a journalist
wanting to be on the commercial side of the business.

The usual ambitions are to be rich, be the editor, own your own paper
or media group, be a columnist, a sports
writer, etc.

And if the story that he quit because of arguments over the SMH’s declining circulation figure is true, why make Whitehead head of sales and circulation and
marketing for the paper?

But with Fairfax anything is possible: Michael Gill is still in
charge of Fairfax Business Media, despite falling sales for the
Australian Financial Review and the various business magazines (most of
which are being closed), but it would be a bit much to give a former
editor the job of “marketing” a paper that he helped send down the
chute over the past three years.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey