Departing Age senior correspondent Simon Mann will take the reins as the founding editor of the University of Melbourne’s new online journalism venture The Citizen. The publication — housed inside Margaret Simons’ Centre for Advanced Journalism — will launch early next year and showcase reportage and features from inside and outside the university’s sandstone walls.

Simons was deluged by applications from a range of senior journos and editors for the six-figure gig and is said to be delighted by Mann’s acceptance. Crikey understands The Citizen will publish the work of eager students in Simons’ Masters program and reach out to the community to tap into the rising tide of citizen journalism. It will also focus on the Melbourne region in the style pioneered by the wave of American “hyperlocal” news sites. An official announcement will be made in coming days.

Simons has previously told Crikey the publication will be aimed at the general public and would remain free “as is appropriate for a public spirited university”. It’s believed to have the backing of university powerbrokers keen to extend the hallowed institution’s imprimatur into the realm of serious reporting. The centre’s research arm, Citizen’s Agenda, will run in parallel with Mann’s Citizen.

Melbourne Uni’s other recent media venture, Andrew Jaspan’s The Conversation, draws its content almost exclusively from academics and is pitched at both a research and general audience. There is unlikely to be any crossover between the two.

This is Mann’s last week at The Age after commencing at the paper 28 years ago in 1984. He returned from the States earlier this year after completing a coveted two-year stint in Washington and previously served as European correspondent for three years beginning in 1999. In between he was a senior editor in various roles across news and business on the day-to-day Spencer Street coalface.