Starting The Conversation. Ex-Age editor Andrew Jaspan’s academic commentary site The Conversation finally went live yesterday after months of pre-testing and personnel hiring. After a flurry of suggestive tweets, the aggregation portal sprung to life at about 2pm with a worthy lead story on science communication, some analysis on last month’s collapse of Red Group and a public domain piece on the St Kilda schoolgirl — which predictably leapt to the top of the site’s “most read” list.

Right up until 9am today the initial content remained in place, until a blanket switchover of stories focused on tomorrow’s NSW election, most notably an amusing piece from Socialist Alternative ANU comrade Rick Kuhn who in his first sentence branded Bob Carr an “erudite policy thug”.

One interesting feature is a disclaimer attached to each author’s byline, although we’re not sure University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis “does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations”, given his university’s status as a “founding partner” and The Conversation‘s landlord.

As Crikey revealed in December, a good portion of the financial heft for Jaspan and general manager Jack Rejtman’s baby is sourced from the taxpayer through state and federal governments and indirectly through some Group of 8 universities. The “our team” page reveals an impressive 19 paid staff members and a further 17 directors and advisers, which as Margaret Simons pointed out last night, is about three times the weight of Crikey‘s payroll. A media meet and greet at The Conversation‘s Lincoln Square HQ is planned for this afternoon and Crikey will report back on the promised “fly on the wall” experience on Monday. — Andrew Crook

Chop for Gould? The whispers are getting louder that Dean Gould, editor of the Gold Coast Bulletin, is in for the chop in the very short term. According to multiple glitter strip sources, News supremo John Hartigan was up on the Gold Coast last month where Gould gave a PowerPoint presentation on “where to from here for the Bully“, which staff had been working on since the obvious ‘show cause’ notice Hartigan gave by making the unexpected visit request a few weeks earlier.

Apparently the PowerPoint didn’t impress the hard-nosed Hartigan, who showed understandable displeasure at continuing falling circulation, lower ad revenues and wasted money on the revamp the paper completed soon after Gould took over.

Following Crikey’s exclusive report of Gould’s imminent demise before Christmas, the Ed called an extraordinary staff meeting where he actually brought up the subject and said that all those staffers “running around saying I am gone are completely wrong and should sack their own sources — I’m here to stay!”.

Now, the rumours are heating up again, with the word on the street is that a role is being created at another capital city for Gould and that replacement front runner, Townsville Bulletin editor Peter Gleeson, has been told to start packing. The axing rumor is now all over the Gold Coast paper as well as staff from papers down south in Sydney and north in Brisbane where the GCB is subbed these days. – Andrew Crook

Father and son competitors. The suggestion that The Australian‘s ambitious Victorian business editor Damon Kitney will soon return to Fairfax to edit The Australian Financial Review have reached fever pitch, as first floated by Crikey on Monday. Kitney has just bought a house in Victoria following his original defection from The Fin last May, but the lure of the nation’s plum business journalism post has again shifted his gaze northwards.

Humorously, if Kitney does finish up back at Pyrmont he’ll have a potentially rebellious underling to deal with — his father Geoff — who continues to write excellent political colour pieces out of Canberra well into his twilight years. Alternatively, if Kitney doesn’t take the gig, Sean Aylmer is seen as next in line.  — Andrew Crook

Doing the full Circle. An unfortunate incident on Ten’s The Circle this week. After an emotional interview with Nick Vujicic, the Aussie guy born with no arms and no legs, host Colin Lane tells the audience they get a copy of Vujicic’s book and then throws to Marianne Van Dorslar for an advertorial segment on Telstra broadband. Van Dorslar opens:

“It’s difficult to find ways to entertain the family these days without it costing an arm and a leg…”

Front page of the day: Tomorrow is the day NSW has been waiting for…

Liz Taylor front covers around the world

“Elizabeth Taylor’s death was a major international news story, with papers all over the world splashing her pictures across their front pages.” — Huffington Post

Journos released in Libya

“Agence France Presse said the Libyan government released on Wednesday three journalists captured last week near a key eastern city that has been a daily battleground between Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and Libyan rebels. The AFP reported the three were freed in Tripoli.” — Google News

Google Books in trouble

“Google Inc. and the authors and publishers that sued the company face a major challenge salvaging a proposed legal settlement to make millions of out-of-print but in-copyright books available digitally.” — Wall Street Journal

Mainstream media is failing to report Japan accurately

“The news from Japan is both awful and appalling. Awful: 23,000 confirmed dead or missing, and counting. Appalling: pretty much anything to do with the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. Nuclear meltdown like Chernobyl! Deadly contaminated milk and radioactive tap water! Tokyo a postapocalyptic ghost town! A plume of radiation that threatens America’s West Coast!” — TechCrunch

Google Magazine?

“We hear a lot about Google’s relationship with publishers, but this week the search giant also quietly launched its own online publication based in the UK. Think Quarterly, which calls itself a “a breathing space in a busy world” is, as the name implies, a quarterly online magazine.” — News Grange

Rebecca Black fights back

“Ark Music Factory, the vanity production company Rebecca Black’s mom paid $2,000 to make that “Friday video,” just released this teaser video for something they’re calling ‘The Truth About Ark.’ Not really sure what to make of this, but apparently it will counter all the mean things people have been saying about Ark, i.e. that they exploit their roster of tween girls’ misguided dreams of fame for profit.” — Gawker