Staff at The Bulletin were yesterday given an unequivocal guarantee by Group
Publisher Phil Scott that the magazine would not close, and that there were no
plans to make it an online only
publication.

Following the announcement that editor Garry
Linnell would depart to head news and current affairs at Channel Nine, Scott told
the staff that things at The Bulletin would continue pretty much
as they are, although so far no announcement has been made about the new
editor. Quite a few names are circulating in gossip, including John Lyons and
Tim Blair. The consensus seems to be
that the deputy editor Kathy Bail will not necessarily get the job, but nobody
who will talk pretends to know.

The magazine’s online presence is being
expanded and boosted so who knows what the long-term future will hold, but for
the moment, it seems the Packer organisation’s commitment to its print flagship in hard copy form remains strong.

Meanwhile Linnell’s move from a small
circulation quality magazine to heading news and current affairs at Channel Nine
puts a fresh light on his remarks a few weeks ago about the nature of news.
One can imagine the piece played a part in his cogitations, if the decision
wasn’t already made.

Linnell’s move will be interesting for Channel Nine. His talent has
been evident ever since we were (declaration) cadets together
many years ago at The Age. I’ve
disagreed with him on a couple of matters lately, including the handling of the
Port Arthur
anniversary, but he is a good newsman. The Bulletin under his leadership has been more readable, relevant,
and has broken yarns, even if the thinness of resources has often been
evident.

Circulation at The Bulletin has apparently not responded to the Linnell touch, remaining
around 60,000. This is educative for those of us who wonder how much and how
many people are prepared to pay for quality journalism. But at the same time it
hasn’t dropped, and there have been some spikes with recent cover stories. Perhaps
this is the future of current events journalism in print form: high cover
price, moderate advertising revenue, even more moderate circulation.

Internally Linnell is well regarded
both by his bosses and his staff. One of his senior writers said: “people
want to work for him.” Another
said: “he’s very inclusive, he’s not one of those people who shouts and
throws staplers.” At Channel Nine, this will be a big change and hopefully an
end to the culture of the biggest bully rules.

Linnell is also a fine writer. Perhaps we
will also see an end to the need for every development in a Channel Nine news
story to be described as “dramatic”.
The old sub-editor’s rule applies:
If it’s dramatic, you don’t need to say so.


Peter Fray

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