Kim Williams’ grand plans to overhaul News Corp Australia’s operations — unveiled last June — are looking decidedly ragged a year on. Recent sackings and departures have left key positions unoccupied; one senior role has never been filled at all. News offers only a stony silence when asked basic questions about where the company is headed.

Williams’ dramatic restructure merged small fiefdoms into the much larger, state-based units including News NSW, News Queensland, News Victoria and News SA. In the eastern states for example, this saw 19 divisions collapsed into five. Each state would have a regional director in charge of the commercial operations and an editorial director to oversee all mastheads in that state. The aim was clear: drive cost efficiencies, reduce management layers and increase copy-sharing between mastheads. But it hasn’t all gone to plan.

News NSW is the most striking example. Regional director Michael Miller, who left in May to become CEO of APN News and Media, has not been replaced. As for the position of NSW editorial director, it has never been filled — despite promises one was on the way. The word within News was the delay was caused by fears a shitfight would break out between The Daily Telegraph editor Paul Whittaker and Sunday Telegraph editor Neil Breen if the other was given the job. Breen is now gone but the role remains vacant. A spokesperson for News declined to comment on whether it will ever be filled; Miller, though, will be replaced.

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In Queensland, editorial director David Fagan, axed last month, has not been replaced. News won’t confirm whether he will be. Rumours continue to swirl within the company that Phil Gardner, who was removed as editor-in-chief of the Herald Sun in June, was offered Fagan’s job but turned it down. The official line from News is that no job offer was made. It appears almost certain the position of Herald Sun editor-in-chief is now defunct, leaving editor Damon Johnston in charge of the day-to-day.

Williams would be more pleased when he surveys the scene at News Victoria, where Peter Blunden is sitting pretty as editorial director while Mark Gardy runs the commercial side. South Australia also boasts a regional director (Ish Davies) and editorial boss (ex-Adelaide Advertiser editor Melvin Mansell).

On the newsroom floor, staff continue to depart the company with redundancy cheques. Among those leaving The Australian in the current redundancy round are:

  • Stuart Rintoul, a senior writer who has been at the paper since 1996
  • Luke Slattery, deputy Wish editor and former higher education editor
  • Andrew Colley, IT reporter
  • Ian Cuthbertson, TV editor
  • Lisa Macnamara, business journalist
  • Katherine Jimenez, business journalist
  • Bridget Cormack, Queensland arts reporter
  • Adam Knott, photographer
  • Dallas Baird, video executive producer.

This round has been especially bruising for staffers at The Oz because some of the job cuts have been forced rather than voluntary. Crikey understands some staffers applied for redundancy and were knocked back; others were tapped on the shoulder but given a reprieve when they said they wanted to stay.

Editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell says the current redundancy round is now over. But staffers at the cash-strapped paper, convinced more job cuts are on the way, are breathing only a temporary sigh of relief.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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