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May 4, 2012

Global Mail teething: tensions and changes for Attard's baby

The Global Mail is mulling a new direction, with senior management considering luring managing editor Monica Attard away from the day-to-day coalface in favour of a senior writing role.

Long-form journalism website The Global Mail is mulling a new direction, with senior management considering luring managing editor and ex-ABC star Monica Attard away from the day-to-day coalface in favour of a senior writing role.

Crikey has been deluged with rumours of tension in the site’s upper echelons, with Attard apparently at loggerheads with her CEO, former US-based People editor-at-large Jane Nicholls. Attard was not present at The Global Mail‘s Macquarie Street offices this morning due to illness, although chairman and funder Graeme Wood was believed to be working out of the boardroom.

The Global Mail has a yearly budget of $3 million, drawn from Wood’s deep pockets that, according to BRW magazine, hold wealth valued at about $337 million. (Wood did not return Crikey‘s calls.)

Attard clarified she was still in the managing editor’s chair when contacted this morning, saying she would make a few calls to investigate the claims. She later said the rumours were “news to me”.

The web-based not-for-profit was Attard’s brainchild — the former Media Watch host approached Wood after the Arab Spring with the idea for a new outwardly-focused Australian journalism venture to sidestep the banalities of the frenzied daily news cycle. She was impressed the progressive entrepreneur returned her call and its editorial development has been her baby ever since.

Attard has been intimately involved in the site’s physical build since the middle of last year when she shifted from the ABC’s Sunday Profile.

Tensions inside TGM are believed to have come to a head in recent weeks when Attard was asked to relinquish some control over the site to a leadership team rapidly coalescing around Nicholls (who is married to the site’s national affairs correspondent Bernard Lagan), photography director Mike Bowers, IT director Ben Fogarty and communications director Annmarie Jonson. The site’s “voices” page was recently updated to reflect the new structure.

Crikey understands Attard may now pursue The Global Mail‘s European post, replacing or complementing current continental scribe Eric Ellis. Attard has a storied northern hemisphere history, having served as the ABC’s Russian correspondent where she won multiple Walkleys documenting the collapse of Communism.

Elsewhere on the site, the editorial talent is laid on thick with 13 correspondents stationed locally and around the world. Wood’s stepson Nick Olle, the son of the late Andrew Olle, is its Latin American correspondent with ex-Sydney Morning Herald writer Mike Seccombe toiling as the Australian business and economics point man.

Since its launch some features, such as the left-to-right scrolling, have chafed with readers, though it works better on iPads and other tablets. While some great pieces have been published others appear to have attracted only limited attention. Stories have been commissioned at a frenetic pace and there is believed to have been some rancour around the balance between quality and quantity.

The site has not released its Google Analytics figures, and is not participating in industry-standard Nielsen readership surveys.

Its high-powered editorial advisory committee includes Australian Financial Review editor-at-large Pam Williams, Propublica editor-in-chief Paul Steiger and former ACCC head Graeme Samuel.

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22 comments

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22 thoughts on “Global Mail teething: tensions and changes for Attard’s baby

  1. Sophie Goddard

    That’s a pity – because I am loving The Global Mail – writing, format, photos and all. It is rare to find such lengthy well-researched journalism from any Australian site.

  2. paddy

    The Global Mail is a bloody sad example of truly atrocious web design.
    It’s not just the side scrolling, (yuck) the lousy formatting for IE & Firefox, makes it all but unreadable for me.
    Plus, the lack of interaction with its readers is a telling sign that it’s just not working.

    One of the most disappointing and frustrating online news sites out there.
    Such a wasted opportunity. I really hope they can pull it together and start again.

  3. Just Me

    “It is rare to find such lengthy well-researched journalism from any Australian site.”

    Agree. Been some very good articles on their so far.

    Hope they can work through the teething troubles and settle down.

  4. Just Me

    er, ‘on there…’

    More coffee required.

  5. archibald

    I can’t stand the formatting. If they can make it available in simple HTML I can resize to suit my screen and preferences and read top to bottom, I’ll read any articles I’m interested in but, as it stands, it is too frustrating to be bothered with.

  6. DF

    I like the content and can live with the rest.

  7. Gail

    Once I got used to the horizontal scrolling, I had no trouble with it. Do you really need every website to be identical apart from colour schemes and choice of images? I love it and read it most days – some great articles, often with interesting insight. I read it much the same way I read Crikey and New Matilda; for information, interest and insight that is not generally available in Australia. Since the ABC began its news-lite era – a useful addition for anyone that doesn’t need to know who had a boob-job, went on a diet or had an affair.

    Definitely outside the feeding frenzy driven, fact-free, no-news mainstream media.

  8. Ian

    Every time I try to get onto the site I can’t. All I get is ” server not found”. Any ideas?

  9. shepherdmarilyn

    Cheers to Hamish McDonald for single handedly bringing us the truth of the obsenity of jailing Indonesia children in adult prison on a charges that do not exist anywhere in international law and actually are in breach of at least 7 treaties we have ratified.

  10. AR

    I fear that it is too good for a large readership. Thus far the articles have been incisive, informative and interesting. I came to prefer the side scrolling, which initially irked me.
    I wish it well and would be prepared, on current evidence, to pay for its continued survival, as I do for Crikey.

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