Fin meltdown complete. The Australian Financial Review received formal resignations last night from deputy editor Brett Clegg, Clegg’s wife and news editor Annabel Hepworth and Melbourne bureau chief Damon Kitney, as Crikey reported on Wednesday. The appointments will be trumpeted in tomorrow’s Weekend Australian, with editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell said to be proud as punch. “Send me your pay slip and I’ll match it,” Mitchell reportedly boomed, after rumours of the trio’s discontent gathered pace. At their new digs at The Oz, Clegg will become ‘deputy editor (business)’, Hepworth senior business writer and Kitney Victorian business editor.

Insiders have reported chaos inside The Fin‘s Pyrmont offices this morning, with Fairfax CEO Brian McCarthy planning to personally address the remaining staff to express his “confidence” in editor-in-chief Glenn Burge. Newsroom snouts have told Crikey Burge has been locked in his office in desperate conversations with the Fairfax board. Chairman Roger Corbett reportedly made a personal plea for Clegg to stay, but by then it was too late — the relationship with Burge, who in happier times was anointed the godfather of Clegg and Hepworth’s daughter, had turned toxic.

Well-placed sources say Burge and Clegg fell out after Clegg started expanding his reach at the paper, leading to Burge threatening his direct report with a salary cut. Another sticking point was said to be the appointment of overseas recruit Aaron Patrick to head the paper’s companies section, which was backed by Burge but not by Clegg. Burge is now under serious pressure to fall on his sword, Crikey understands.

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And it could get even worse. Insiders say the paper’s last great news breaker is former Street Talk Editor and now AFR New York correspondent Anthony Hughes. Hughes was expected to be a logical choice for the Chanticleer column, vacated by Alan Jury, but has been left out of the loop, despite his friendship with Burge forged when the duo toiled at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Sources say the bleeding of the AFR‘s corporate reporting group (and those journalists’ contacts lists) began in September last year when a series of high-profile departures gutted the companies section and left Burge reeling. Along with the latest three, the departure list since September includes:

  • Simon Evans: senior companies reporter with over 10 years experience; a strong news breaker with excellent contacts in investment banking as well as retail and gaming (September)
  • Tracy Lee: companies editor with excellent contacts in funds management, board rooms and a specialty in telecommunications (September)
  • Karen Maley: senior financial services reporter and feature writer; strong banking contact book (September)
  • Ingrid Mansell: senior business writer; great news breaker responsible for features on personalities across several sectors. Strong investment banking and private equity contact book (October)
  • James Chessell: associate editor, formally financial services editor; took his terrific contact book and news breaking skill to The Oz (November)
  • Michael Smith: deputy companies editor; has taken his strong aviation specialty to Reuters (leaves in four weeks)
  • Alan Jury: Chanticleer columnist (leaves in three weeks)

Andrew Crook

Clicks rather than quality gets journos counting their pennies

“At last Wednesday’s weekly staff meeting at the New York Observer, an old-fashioned paper memo was distributed; it was not sent out by email. It explained a new trial incentive program for reporters, to begin immediately.” — The AWL

Will the iPad end the era of free news?

“The advent of the iPad means two things for medialand. It means failing newspapers can save themselves if they have the guts to do so, and it means the sudden and well-deserved demise of the once-dominant ‘news should be free’ internet mantra that has hobbled the industry.” — Forbes

Brave journalism helps more than foreign aid

“The need for honest, brave journalism is huge and far overshadows the many millions of dollars of well-meaning aid and support for democracy and civil society that usually comes from foreign donors.” — Huffington Post

When shock jocks go too far — even for 2UE

“Talk-back radio station 2UE has stood down fill-in drive time presenter David Oldfield after just three shifts following comments he made about asylum seekers.” — Mumbrella

CNN and CBS to combine efforts in a cost-cutting frenzy

“CNN and CBS, two suitors with a long history of courtship, have engaged in direct talks in recent weeks about more extensive combinations of their news resources …” — New York Times


Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

We’ve pushed our journalism as far as we could go. And that’s only been possible with reader support. Thank you. And if you haven’t yet subscribed, this is your time to join tens of thousands of Crikey members to take the plunge.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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