Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell this morning announced his retirement. As widely expected, he’ll be replaced by the Daily Tele’s Paul Whittaker.
The momentous news was announced to the troops this morning. In a marked improvement on the company’s internal communications, staff were sent an email only moments after The Australian broke the story. As has been the case in the past, News Corp’s two chiefs, CEO Peter Tonagh and executive chairman Australasia Michael Miller, told staff the important news jointly. But not only do Tonagh and Miller speak with the one voice — it appears the Oz’s media editor Darren Davidson is joining the chorus.
Here’s how Mitchell’s background was explained to News Corp staff in the internal announcement by Tonagh and Miller:
“Chris began his career as a cadet at the Brisbane Telegraph at the age of 17. He went on to write for the Townsville Bulletin, The Daily Telegraph and The Australian Financial Review, before joining The Australian in 1984.
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“In 1992, at the age of 35, he was appointed editor of The Australian, a role he held for three years before returning to Brisbane as editor-in-chief of Queensland Newspapers editing The Courier-Mail and having responsibility for The Sunday Mail and editorial oversight of our regional papers in the Gold Coast, Cairns & Townsville.
“In 2002 Chris returned to The Australian as the paper’s editor-in-chief, overseeing the Monday to Friday paper, The Weekend Australian and The Australian Magazine. During his tenure he launched Wish Magazine, The Deal and The Australian Business Review, and has invested heavily in the paper’s arts and higher education coverage.
“Mitchell began his career as a cadet at the Brisbane Telegraph at the age of 17. He went on to write for the Townsville Bulletin, The Daily Telegraph and The Australian Financial Review, before joining The Australian in 1984.
“At the age of 35, Mr Mitchell was appointed editor of The Australian at the start of 1992, a role he held for three years before returning to Brisbane as editor-in-chief of Queensland Newspapers. He has been an editor for 24 years and is the longest serving editor at News Corp globally.
“In 2002, Mr Mitchell returned to The Australian as the paper’s editor-in-chief, overseeing the Monday to Friday paper, The Weekend Australian and The Australian Magazine. During his tenure he launched Wish Magazine, The Deal and The Australian Business Review, and has invested heavily in the paper’s arts and higher education coverage.”
Not that Davidson’s report had nothing unique to it. It revealed that Mitchell, who formally steps down at the end of next week, would now have a weekly column in The Australian’s media section. ABC managing director Mark Scott, who may well be a frequent subject of the new column, tweeted his anticipation. “Chris Kenny loses a media column. Chris Mitchell gains a media column. I don’t think my Monday mornings are going to change that much.”
In an email sent to his journalists, Mitchell said the time to retire had, after 13 years, finally come.
“My years at The Australian — as chief sub, night editor, editor and editor-in-chief — have been very satisfying. I have seen the paper grow in credibility and influence over the decades and I believe that it has never been more powerful. Our focus on breaking stories; pursuing issues at the core of the economic and social debate; and defining an agenda for all Australians, have cemented our place in the nation’s life.
“I am immensely proud of our efforts since I was appointed editor-in-chief in 2002. Thank you all for your hard work and commitment: a daily newspaper is built by an extraordinary effort from many people.”
He paid tribute to his senior team, starting with editor Clive Mathieson, weekend editor Michelle Gunn, editor-at-large Paul Kelly, political editor Dennis Shanahan, managing editor Helen Trinca and his PA, Sue Cooper.
“I am indebted to Rupert Murdoch: his backing and faith in me during almost 24 years as an editor at News Corp have been outstanding,” Mitchell added. “Lachlan Murdoch shares his father’s belief in the paper, and I thank him for that.” The editor-in-chief promised his staff drinks before he left.
As part of the reshuffle, The Courier-Mail’s Chris Dore is taking over at the Tele. He was popular at the Courier-Mail, and Crikey understands staff are sad to see him go. Scuttlebutt in Brisbane is he’ll be replaced by Daily Tele deputy editor Ben English. A formal announcement of Dore’s replacement is promised “at a later date”.