Last Friday she called in sick, and yesterday Julie McCrossin resigned as the breakfast presenter on ABC radio’s key Sydney station, 702, just a month after taking up the role.

It’s understood McCrossin had been increasingly worried that her health was being affected by the grind of 4am starts on five mornings a week. But there was another reason: her inability to move from the highly-produced Radio National format, where she presented the one-hour Life Matters, to the newsier, seat-of-your-pants tempo of breakfast radio.

On Tuesday, McCrossin stepped down as host of the 2005 Andrew Olle Memorial lecture, to be held tomorrow night, then tried to strike a deal that would have lightened her load and made the breakfast shift more structured and less reliant on news and current events – but it wasn’t on.

She’s the third presenter to leave 702 this year, after Angela Catterns and Sally Loane – a sign of worrying instability. ABC management have some explaining to do: why did they not insist that McCrossin undergo the same on-air audition as the three other contenders – Simon Marnie, James Valentine and Debbie Spillane?

Sarah MacDonald will fill in until Christmas, so a replacement won’t be installed until the New Year. And a complicating factor is the use by ABC Radio management of the American radio consultant, Valerie Geller. McCrossin was “Gellerised,” as cynics in the ABC describe it, with her own natural style being forced to play second fiddle to the approach of Geller who preaches the mantra of “getting closer to the audience.” That made for a confused sound and approach to stories some mornings.

In the end, it’s a pity because the situation could have been handled a lot better and without the angst and tears.

Peter Fray

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