Fairfax Media will “remove duplication” in its popular foodie inserts and appoint a new bon vivant to edit a “refreshed” national product, a leaked internal email has revealed. But the media giant’s Sydney-based food and wine manager Lisa Hudson has refused to spell out the full details of what the consolidation plan actually entails.

A jargon-spattered missive sent to Fairfax staff by Hudson shows The Age‘s Epicure section and The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Good Living insert will soon be “relaunched” and a new food and wine website established to “round out our offering”.

The national food and wine tsar would oversee content to continue “our long tradition of providing Australia’s best and most trusted food journalism while introducing some fresh new ideas”.

Responding to fears raised by Epicure insiders in Crikey last week that the initiative would lead to a pan-Fairfax blancmange, Hudson insisted she remained “firmly committed to local content, with state-based editors and writers continuing to showcase local restaurants, cafes, bars, producers and personalities”.

The new structure is consistent with metro chief Garry Linnell’s cost-cutting editorial review and will, according to Hudson, “enable audience-focused delivery of our content across all platforms” and “promote an ideas-driven culture that ensures we continue to offer award-winning food and wine coverage and campaigning food journalism”.

It is not known how many positions would be lost or merged, with some Age staff expressing concerns this morning they would be forced to re-apply for their own jobs.

Hudson accused Crikey of “not writing facts”, but, when pressed on the facts, was reluctant to reveal them.

What did she mean by duplication removal? “With the recipes which we have shared them for a number of years and they are currently … those pages are currently designed, subbed and proof-read twice,” she responded, adding her goal “is to work smarter”.

Anything else? “That’s an example and that’s probably all I need to say … I don’t have any further comment.”

At Epicure — edited by the popular Jane Willson — the current ratio of local Victorian to interstate content oscillates at about 70:30, depending on the edition. But any further synergies will almost certainly meet with savage resistance from Victorian foodies who revere their Tuesday bible as a foundation document.

There is no word, as yet, on whether the Epicure and Good Living brands would merge into a national Food and Wine masthead — both are well established in their home states and house millions of dollars in reader goodwill.

Yesterday, Crikey highlighted a full-page colour ad in Epicure placed by Melbourne restaurateur Ronnie di Stasio that embarrassingly featured the logo of bitter rival The Australian. One senior Fairfaxista pointed out one reason the saltimbocca king booked the ad was that in Victoria Epicure boasts hundreds of thousands more readers than its national competitor. While The Age sells about 150,000 copies on a Tuesday, The Oz would struggle to shift 30,000 south of the Murray. “Ronnie knows where his bread is buttered,” another source said.

Applications for the new editorial overseer will be accepted until next Friday. Hudson says she is “looking forward to continuing our proud tradition of delivering the best food and wine content in the country, and to showcasing the team when the process is finalised”. Hacks with burning questions should “contact me directly”, she wrote.

Meanwhile, Fairfax will also appoint a new national travel editor to “recognise the unique aspects of the travel vertical”. In an internal screed sent by Lauren Quaintance — who holds a position called “General Manager, Travel — Metro Media”, the new editor, “supported by all-important platform specialists … will dismantle the divide between print and digital and eliminate duplication between platforms and brands” to allow “more flexibility, more collaboration and more transparency about how we work”.

Shareholders struggling under the yoke of the firm’s record low share price will be placated by Quaintance’s renewed “commercial focus” to “ensure that we are better able to pursue those opportunities across all of our platforms.”

Peter Fray

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