Stressed Fairfax hacks holed up in the warrens of Parliament House are dreading their return from holidays in January when they will be confronted with a new tri-masthead “Canberra bureau” dreamt up by new national managing editor Mark Baker.

While the merger of The AgeThe Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times bureaux to create a new central pool had been announced previously, Baker’s full email to staff detailing the changes reveals scribes will be forced to file during the day for online as part of a new “digital first” culture. The National Times will move beyond commentary and analysis to also host breaking news. “If a story is going to break during the day it belongs online and we must aim to break it first,” the missive notes ominously.

The only duo to escape Baker’s hand are Phil Coorey and the untouchable Michelle Grattan. Lenore Taylor and Katharine Murphy will remain with The SMH and The Age but will “work with me in the roles described below”. In other moves, the well-regarded Bianca Hall makes a nice leap from The Crimes to media and education reporter in the general pool, while former intel spook Dan Flitton moves from politics on The Age to an overarching “foreign affairs” gig.

Members of The Age and SMH house committees continue to resist the rationalisations, which they say tarnishes their titles’ individuality in favour of an unedifying pan-Fairfax melange.

Peter Fray

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