Did we see the hand of Lachlan Murdoch in the surprise move, as first revealed in Crikey last week, of Col Allan on News Corp Australia and its CEO Kim Williams?
Allan is a favourite of Lachlan, who was instrumental in the firebrand editor moving from The Daily Telegraph in Sydney to the New York Post 12 years ago. Now he’s coming back to Sydney on a “temporary” assignment, according to the staff memo from company boss Robert Thomson. Murdoch is a director of News Corp and News Corp Australia; he is the most senior member of the company’s board living in Australia, which is important because the newly created company’s assets are heavily weighted towards newspapers and magazines, 50% of Foxtel, control of Fox Sports Australia and 61% of REA Group.
And it’s highly likely Allan won’t return to New York — the bloke most likely to replace him, publisher Jesse Angelo, was also best man for brother James at his wedding and the man responsible for the $US30 million Daily debacle in 2012. Angelo is filling in at the Post while Allan is in Australia.
News sources say the move — unprecedented in the Murdoch empire’s history — raises questions about how long Campbell Reid will last in his present role of editorial director at News Corp Australia. He is, after all, supposed to be Williams’ chief editorial adviser (Williams has no editorial experience whatsoever, unlike his predecessor John Hartigan). Reid has clearly been supplanted by Allan.
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Allan will have a two-fold task: overseeing the tabloids and especially the Sundays; The Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Herald Sun. One insider told Crikey over the weekend that “Rupert is particularly worried about the Sundays”; a story in The Australian today confirms that. The Sydney Sunday will be first cab off the rank, putting newish editor Mick Carroll in the gun.
Also to feel the Allan touch will be Boston Consulting Group, brought in by Williams to examine costs and change management and staffing levels. It was a way for Williams to outsource the “nasty” stuff of taking hard decisions about staff, especially editorial staff. News journalists reckon Williams’ future at the company is limited, but journalists have always been wishful thinkers about management longevity.
Another to start at News today is Brett Clegg. He has returned from overseeing Fairfax Business Media to a role taking charge of New South Wales operations. Who would you back in any argument over changes to the Tele — Clegg or Allan?
This story in The Weekend Australian eulogised Allan’s reign in New York, apparently “marked by the newspaper’s transformation to colour presses, witty, attention grabbing front pages and the occasional controversy” (such as showing President Barack Obama as a chimp and fingering two innocent people in the Boston bombing investigation). But nowhere did the report tell readers the Post has lost 200,000 analogue print readers in the past year. All up the paper was selling 500,000 print and digital copies a day — it had 200,000 digital subscribers. And no mention of extensive reports of the losses as the Post — estimated at $US100 million in the 2012 year. No mention in the Oz today, either.
Editorial staff numbers were cut by 10% two months ago, roughly at the same time The Times in London was cutting its newsroom numbers by a similar amount. The Australia‘s latest round of cuts followed soon after.