The new “McCarthyism” at Fairfax seems to be sweeping the empire.

Fresh from changing and reshaping the non editorial structures of the Fairfax newspaper businesses, Brian McCarthy, the former CEO of Rural Press and now deputy chief executive officer at Fairfax seems to have produced a major result across the Tasman where the rest of the newspaper business resides.

Fairfax New Zealand’s chief operating officer and editor-in-chief Peter O’Hara is departing the group after his role was “disestablished’, as NZ media so quaintly described the process.

O’Hara had been responsible for the editorial and commercial sides of the business, but no more.

It has now created two new roles, group head of publishing and group executive editor and according to his boss, Joan Withers (the Fairfax NZ CEO), O’Hara decided to not apply for either position.

The group head of publishing will be responsible for performance of the newspaper and magazine businesses, including revenue, profit, circulation and readership, reporting to Withers.

The group executive editor will be responsible for editorial content in newspapers, magazines and online, also reporting to Withers.

“The changes we are implementing will provide a clearer operational structure and will recognise the critical importance of news gathering, content creation and distribution,” Withers said a statement.

You’d have to wonder why it took the merger and the ascent of Brian McCarthy to tell them that in NZ.

And Ms Withers’ comment that the change “will recognise the critical importance of news gathering, content creation and distribution.” is curious. Didn’t the combined role Mr O’Hara recognise this important fact?

She seems to have left out a very important point: that splitting the roles will actually relieve commercial pressure on the news reporting side and improve its independence by freeing it from residing with the person responsible for the commercial side of the business.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey