Dubbo paper The Daily Liberal is searching for its fourth editor in less than ten
months, according to a Crikey tipster.

Crikey has confirmed that Linton Besser quit as editor of
Dubbo’s daily newspaper after being in the job for little more than a
month. He follows long-standing editor Richard Lawson, who left in
February, and Jodie O’Sullivan who left in September. Up to another
half-a-dozen editorial staff have also left.

The resignations are said to be the result of conflicts between the editors and Rural Press management, which owns The Daily Liberal (and more than 200 agricultural, regional and metropolitan publications, including The Canberra Times – for a full list, click here).

Crikey believes Rural Press management has a very hands-on approach, often
interfering with the placement and content of stories, as well as the
hiring of staff.

Rural Press’s attitude to the importance of opinion-breaking news is
“pretty ordinary,” says one source, which is not helped by the fact
that, due to monetary considerations, the normal deadline of 9pm at the
Liberal could bebrought forward to 6pm like their other dailies at Orange and Bathurst.

This – and a $100,000 editorial budget cut – could explain why the paper apparently had trouble getting
anyone to put their hands up to edit the paper. So who’s next to step up to the
editor’s plate? It’s believed that Rural Press has made an interesting
choice, offering the editor’s job to Jen Cowley, who was the Nationals’
unsuccessful candidate in last year’s by-election for the State seat of
Dubbo.

Andrew Meenahan, manager of the Central West division of Rural Press, refused to comment on the story and would only tell
Crikey that, at the moment, no-one has been appointed to the editorship
of The Daily Liberal.

Another inside source confirms that while this is strictly true, Cowley
has in fact been offered the job but she hasn’t yet decided to take it
up. She’s apparently working as acting editor and chief of staff for the
next five weeks before making her mind up.

Whatever happens, the choice is an interesting one. The Liberal and the Nationals have a “chequered history” to say the least, says one of our sources, with the Nats often critical of the Liberal‘s political coverage. So Cowley’s appointment would be quite a coup for the party.

Meanwhile, the Liberal‘s not the only Central West paper having editor woes – in all the division has lost six editors in recent times.

We called Jen Cowley for her comments, but she was unavailable.