Last week as part of the Crikey Bias-o-meter on newspapers I commented that Andrew Jaspan, editor-in-chief of The Age, was regarded as high maintenance even by his supporters. Since then I have had a small flurry of contacts protesting that this was inaccurate – because, they say, Jaspan hasn’t got any supporters unless it is the Chairman of the Board, Ron Walker.
There are constant rumbles in the jungle about Jaspan and his tenure and normally I don’t bother to report them, since there is a fair bit of wish fulfilment behind the gossip. But this time speculation is coming from better than averagely informed sources that Jaspan’s days may be numbered.
As Fairfax’s new head of newspapers, Brian McCarthy, brings in the old Rural Press brigade I am assured that the “highest levels” of management are now both aware of and worried by the long-standing concerns of the editorial floor about Jaspan’s shortcomings, including his interactions with Melbourne’s networks of power.
Some of the tension is also be due to Jaspan fighting hard against moves to merge sections of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, and dilute individual editors’ power and independence under what one Age newsroom wit dubs the New McCarthyism.
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Whether the concerns about Jaspan will have any effect, given the healthy circulation and readership figures at The Age, remains to be seen, but there is well-informed speculation that Jaspan may move on soon.
Who would replace him? There are no hot tips, although the editor of the Canberra Times, former Age senior journalist Mark Baker, is mentioned in speculation as is Jaspan’s deputy Paul Ramadge.
As reported by Crikey previously, rumours that Jaspan’s contract is up for renewal in October are incorrect. He doesn’t have a fixed-term contract. There is no particular date that Age editorial long sufferers can look to for relief.
We know that the new boss of newspapers at Fairfax, Brian McCarthy, doesn’t read Crikey, but at times like these at least those around him both read it, and speak to it.
The word from both above and below Jaspan is that he is isolated in the position – and that doesn’t bode well for either him or Chairman Ron Walker.