Jan 23, 2014

From fact to fiction: Williams leaves the AFR to write novels

The Fairfax newsroom is in shock over the departure of one of the company's most experienced journalists, Pamela Williams.

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

Australian Financial Review editor-at-large Pamela Williams (pictured), one of the country's most celebrated journalists, has taken redundancy from Fairfax Media and plans to write a novel. The news sent shockwaves through the AFR's Pyrmont newsroom when it was announced in an email to staff yesterday. Six-time Walkley winner Williams has worked at the AFR since 1987 and was controversially knocked back for a redundancy last November. AFR sources say Williams pushed for the decision to be reversed, and this time the voluntary redundancy was approved by management. Last year Williams wrote a book, Killing Fairfax, which chronicled Fairfax's failure to dominate the online classifieds markets it had dominated in print. The book won the 2013 Walkley book award. Williams is expected to leave with a significant payout given Fairfax's redundancy scheme of four weeks' pay for each continuous year of service. In an email to colleagues yesterday, Williams said:
"I have been at the paper a long time and so it's with rather a heavy heart I leave it. I adore the Fin Review, my home for most of the years since 1987. I joined when Alan Kohler was editor and the Melbourne office was a hotbed of insurrection and crazed good times until the notion of deadline took over everyone's head at about 4pm each day.  Much cricket was played during the day in the office back then. Not by me I hasten to add. "The paper has been a wonderful place to work and I wish everyone, especially Sean [Aylmer, director of business media] and Michael [Stutchbury, AFR editor-in-chief] and Paul [Bailey, AFR editor] , the very best for the future. I plan to have a go at a novel, which I am sure I will regret when I get writer's block on day one. "Hope we stay in touch, life is short."
In his email to staff, AFR editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury said:
"Pam wants to focus on writing the novel she has had on her agenda for a long time. We thank Pam for her decades of great journalism at the Financial Review and wish her the best with the novel."
Williams, who began her career at BRW, is highly regarded for her contacts across business and politics and her suspense-filled long-form storytelling. Williams won the Gold Walkley in 1998 for her coverage of the waterfront dispute and in 1997 wrote The Victory, a book detailing John Howard's 1996 election campaign. More recently, her "tick tock"-style pieces on the demise of Kevin Rudd and of Julia Gillard drew plaudits. Some in the AFR were speculating good-naturedly this morning that her novel would include detailed descriptions of the weather and the time of day -- stylistic trademarks from her journalism career that earned her the nickname "dark and stormy".

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