Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:

Despite growing his newspaper’s circulation by 150,000 copies over a 12-year gig, Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun editor Alan Howe was yesterday relieved of his duties by News Ltd CEO John Hartigan.

According to the official announcement released to News Ltd staff early this afternoon, Howe will be replaced by Sunday Herald Sun deputy editor Simon Pristel, a politically savvy but quiet former chief-of-staff on the Herald Sun whom colleagues today described as the “android” and “crash test dummy.”

Howe
was one of the original strike breakers in the UK in the late 1980s
when Murdoch moved his operation from Fleet Street to Wapping. He’s
been working for Rupert since the 1970s, is “News Ltd to his
bootstraps” and is reportedly deeply disappointed by the tap on the
shoulder.

Rumours of Howe’s imminent demise have appeared for
years. News Ltd sources say he was unpopular with Lachlan Murdoch and
CEO John Hartigan.

According to one source, Howe’s name has been linked to the vacant Sunday Age
gig but on the phone today his only response to that suggestion was to
observe that he’s been at News Ltd since the 1970s. Howe is married to
Carmel Egan, a former chief of the Australian‘s Melbourne
bureau and is considered unlikely to leave the News Ltd stable. More
probable is that he’ll cop it on the chin and accept whatever sinecure
(or form of torture, depending on your view) he’s offered in the upper
management ranks.

For a clue as to his thinking you probably
need no more than my brief exchange with Howe. I asked him if he could
confirm that he was moving on from the Sunday Herald Sun, to which he replied: “I can’t say anything about it. You can read it all for $1 in tomorrow’s Herald Sun. I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from buying tomorrow’s Herald Sun.”

Loyal to the last.

Peter Fray

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