With editor Paul Armstrong’s departure from The West Australian, the paper now has an opportunity to regain trust and respect. That Armstrong was allowed to damage the paper for a long six years reflects poorly on the previous board and management who seemed oblivious to the harm he was doing to what was an institution in WA.
As previously predicted in Crikey, it was only going to be a matter of time before the new board and management of WAN sent Armstrong on his way. Once Kerry Strokes had gained control of the board and appointed Perth’s Network Seven chief Chris Wharton as CEO and Bob Cronin as group editor-in-chief, Armstrong’s position looked untenable.
In his first attempt to gain control of the WAN board, Stokes made it very clear that he had no time for Armstrong’s style of editing or what he had done to the reputation of the newspaper. In saying that, Stokes was reflecting the views of a wide spectrum of informed readers, including journalists, professionals and media academics.
Wharton and Cronin now face a raft of challenges. These include the appointment of an editor who will restore the journalistic reputation of the newspaper; the resolution of WAN’s dispute with newsagents; halting the tumbling share price; and the problems with its presses.
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To illustrate the last point, half of tomorrow’s paper (dated Saturday, January 17) arrived on my driveway this morning with today’s paper.
With newspapers in crisis around the world and facing closure or massive declines in circulation, the new editor will face the daunting task of implementing a radical overhaul of the style and content of the newspaper. Like all newspapers, The West will have to play its role as one component, albeit the most prominent, within a contemporary, multi-faceted media platform.
But it must also invest in outstanding journalism to ensure that the integrity of its core business is restored and maintained.