Fairfax Media has again bolstered its executive ranks at the same time it moves to lay off 1900 rank and file staff.

In a bombshell missive relayed to Fairfax scribes this morning by national editorial director Garry Linnell, it was revealed that Glenn Burge — dumped from The Australian Financial Review editor chair by CEO Greg Hywood last year after nearly a decade — would be appointed as “Executive Editor, Metro” effective immediately.

Burge was shifted to metro special projects as part of a Hywood-led pincer movement to force out Financial Review Group CEO Michael Gill and revitalise the paper under advertising rainmaker Brett Clegg. (Gill is suing Fairfax for $1 million, accusing it in court of ageism).

Burge told Crikey he’s been “working on a range of projects” since leaving the AFR last March and “had a lot to do” in the new role.

“It’ll be fine, I’m just looking forward to working with Jack [Matthews] and Garry,” he said.

Burge was previously responsible for the introduction of the tricky Methode content management system. AFR moles fondly recall a classic Methode moment when French translators had to be called in to guide journos through Francophone language prompts. (It is not known whether News Limited, which recently announced its own $60 million adoption of Methode, will encounter the same difficulties.)

Linnell sung his junior’s praises today: “As we bring our print and digital teams together to work as one, there is no-one better qualified in Metro to assist me in this new role than Glenn.”

Burge’s new gig adds to the ex-Fin flavour of many of Fairfax’s top executives, with Hywood and new Sydney Morning Herald chief Sean Aylmer all boasting reams of experience at the world’s most expensive financial daily.

In other appointments, digital news manger Darren Burden was made “National Editor” to oversee “an enlarged group of topic areas”.

“Darren’s transparent and collaborative management style is perfect to run a national editorial division — and is something he has been doing in Fairfax for more than eight years,” Linnell said.

And at The Canberra Times, editor Rod Quinn was appointed “editor-in-chief” of the paper in line with new editorial reporting lines. A Canberra news director will be fingered soon.

But there was no word on either the future of the Crimes‘ federal parliament bureau, or the rumoured shift to a tabloid format. However Linnell ominously highlighted Quinn’s “key role in the conversion of The Newcastle Herald from broadsheet to compact in 1998″.

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon’s stop-work meeting of Age staff reiterated a “draft resolution” commending the Fairfax board’s rejection of Gina Rinehart’s bid for three seats on the governing body and her refusal to sign major Fairfax mastheads’ charter of editorial independence:

Draft resolution

This meeting commends the board for its principled and courageous stand in defence of the charter of editorial independence.

This meeting rejects any changes to the charter of editorial independence, and condemns Gina Rinehart’s stated intention to gain control over the editorial direction of Fairfax newspapers.

We ask management to continue talks with the union to address the following issues:

  • Years of casual service recognised in redundancies.
  • The impact of increased shift work.
  • The need for more clarity about where job cuts will be made.

Peter Fray

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