Woman’s Day editor Fiona Connolly has been forced to defend her decision to run secretly snapped workout shots of Therese Rein.

“Just as other first ladies around the world are admired as role models, Woman’s Day has been inspired by Therese Rein’s recent transformation and our readers have shown an overwhelming interest in her weight-loss journey,” she said.

So who is this Woman’s Day editor, this 33-ish mother of one responsible for publishing perhaps the most egregious invasion of privacy in recent Australian magazine history? What more do we know about the woman once described by no less an authority than Kyle Sandilands as “fat toad”, a “fat lying mole” and “a little cretin” (and Kyle knows his fat cretins).

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First thing to note is that Connolly, whose own “weight-loss journey” has had something of the yoyo about it, is no longer “a fat toad”. She’s now a committed runner with a New York Marathon to her credit, though, according to one observant Sydney source, she may be gaining a kilo or two in recent times. This is perhaps due to her new and passionate interest in baking. Connolly entered a cake in this year’s Royal Easter Show, didn’t podium first time out, but is said to be determined to keep entering till she comes home with a ribbon.

That, they say, is the sort of woman the former Daily Telegraph Sydney Confidential editor is. Utterly focused on achievement. Focus though it one thing, her decision to purchase and run paparazzi shots of the first wife’s workout has set a new low bar for women’s magazines in Australia. This is presumably aimed at creating a newsier, punchier Woman’s Day, itself an objective set at challenging the magazine’s atrophying circulation.

In the March audit Woman’s Day averaged sales of 406,005, down 13.6% in the year to March. It was, however in good company. Its direct weekly competitor, New Idea sold just 330,116, down 13.4%. Australian Woman’s Weekly, was also down 13.8%.

So, tough times. It would seem that Connolly, plucked from a career in gossip, has been set the task by ACP boss Ian Law of weaning Woman’s Day of knitting and any number of ways with mince, and bringing it kicking into the modern world of intrusion and celebrity smear. Connolly was not however Law’s first choice for this onerous — if not odious — task. She only got the gig when the favored British contender withdrew. This was a cost-effective decision for ACP, who snapped up Connolly — no editing experience relatively junior — for half the salary of her predecessor.

Ambition is apparently her best and greatest asset. “She’s a real go getter,” says someone. “An operator,” says another. Although, “she’s a bit lofty, a bit earnest for that job. I reckon she’ll come a gutser,” says someone else entirely.

Connolly’s decision to run the Therese Rein images should be seen in the context of this rich background, but also against the reported repeated refusal of the Prime Minister’s wife to share her 25-kilo, six month “weight loss journey’” formally through the time honored medium of the interview. Clearly a Woman’s Day denied is a Woman’s Day to be feared.

We are keen to learn more about Fiona Connolly, a woman now rewriting the bylaws and standards of Australian magazine publishing. Send us your candid photographs, schoolyard memories, late-night nightclub sightings … anything really. We’ll give them the attention they deserve.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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