Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden has left the company after 13 years.

Numerous newsroom sources have told Crikey that Holden has been sacked. But an email from Fairfax metro publisher Sean Aylmer framed the departure as Holden “decid[ing] to leave”.

A Fairfax spokesperson told Crikey of Holden’s departure: “It was by mutual agreement”.

On February 10, it appears Holden had no immediate plans to leave. He sent an email to Age staff announcing a new online restructure. “I hope to have the new online editor in place early in March,” he wrote seven days ago. Holden will be gone by then.

While rumours that Holden was leaving have been circulating for some time, his departure came as a shock to most of the newsroom. Most of who spoke to Crikey this morning initially had no idea he was leaving. Holden is still in the building — he leaves next week. The editor-in-chief position has not been abolished, Fairfax told staff.

The departure is part of a broad restructure of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Aylmer told staff would allow them to “better deliver 24/7 digital  news and newspapers”. Aylmer’s email said:

“The proposed structure enhances the delivery of our quality journalism across the country with depth in our key news topics, including federal politics, state politics and policy, sport, entertainment, investigations and justice.

“It will simplify newsroom workflows, and allows reporters and editors more autonomy to better manage their workloads and create content that meet the 24/7 demands of our audiences.”

Staff consultations on the new structure would take place over the next 10 days, Aylmer said. While discussions are at a very early stage, some Age staff fear the paper could lose its distinct Melbourne focus as more things are controlled from Sydney out of the Sydney Morning Herald newsroom.

Fairfax staff expect to be further informed about the situation in a meeting at 12.30pm this afternoon. Sources tell Crikey Holden’s departure was finalised last night, and senior editors were informed in a meeting that finished just before noon today. In the email from Aylmer, Holden is quoted as saying:

“It’s an enormous privilege to be editor-in-chief of The Age and I have thoroughly enjoyed that experience. It is an outstanding newsroom and perfectly placed to thrive in the new media environment. After eight years of leading newsrooms through many challenges, I’m looking forward to new opportunities.”

Staff believe the AM and PM news director roles have been removed, with the staff who occupy them free to apply for other roles within Fairfax. The news director and deputy news director positions have also been abolished as part of a broader shakeup. No announcement has yet been made about Holden’s replacement.

Sydney Morning Herald journalist and union delegate Marcus Strom has tweeted that there are no job cuts associated with the departure. Mark Forbes, currently news director, has been appointed acting editor-in-chief.

Holden has been contacted for comment.

This piece was updated to include a comment from Fairfax. 

Peter Fray

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