The editor of the Canberra Times, Mark Baker, is coming back to Melbourne to a senior editorial role on the Sunday Age, according to the buzz within the Spencer Street bunker. This morning Baker as good as confirmed the rumour by saying “I have nothing to say.”

When Crikey has put previous rumours to Baker, he has been quick to deny them. I conclude that the move is on, so may as well run the full goss.

The word is that Baker and Sunday Age editor Peter Fray will swap jobs. Fray has had a tense relationship with weekday editor Andrew Jaspan, which the troops generally agree says more about Jaspan than Fray. Apparently Jaspan has been a little free with derogatory opinions about the Sunday publication.

Fray could not be contacted for comment this morning.

Wishful thinking runs strong in the deeply unhappy and disturbed Age newsroom. If Crikey ran every rumour that Andrew Jaspan is about to depart, then we would have room for little else. In recent times those rumours have come from the highest levels of the Fairfax organisation – and yet nothing happens. Perhaps they are toying with us.

This time the gossip is that Baker will be a “monarch in waiting” and has some long term promises that he will be Jaspan’s successor. Why else, the journos speculate, would he switch from editing a daily to a weekly?

Baker, of course, has not yet moved his family to Canberra, which has long led his staff to speculate about his commitment to the national capital. It may be that he simply wants to return to his home town.

Baker has achieved solid results at the Canberra Times – a better paper for his input. The Sunday Age is one of the success stories in circulation, though an increasingly lightweight read. As for the Jaspan rumours, the entire Melbourne Fairfax organisation cries out for relief. Sounds as though it may be some way off yet, but if the rumours are right the chess pieces are moving.

Peter Fray

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