Does The Saturday Paper make money? The latest guest on the Penmanship podcast is its editor Erik Jensen, who says: it does.

“Happily, the paper has either made money or broken even every issue since launch,” he told freelance journo Andrew McMillen. “It’s really working … there is a viable way to treat people seriously, to find an audience who enjoys being treated that way and is willing to pay for it.”

Before the paper launched two years ago, Jensen resigned from the SMH to spend 18 months at Schwartz Media thinking and testing how to best make it work. “Each fundamental assumption we made in terms of testing what a newspaper has been turned out to be an assumption that we came down on the right side of,” he said.

Jensen, who has achieved a great deal of success at a young age (he’s 27), was recently the prospective subject of an Australian Story episode. But the ABC, he reveals in the podcast, stopped filming halfway through.

“They ultimately decided I was too boring to be a subject of Australian Story. Which is really a confronting thing to be told by a producer. ‘Yeah, we’ve been filming you for about 20 hours now, and there’s actually nothing there. You are incredibly boring.’

“But I’ve dealt with that news and I’ve made peace with it. In one of these long interviews … the reason people cry on Australian Story is not because it’s really tender documentary making. It’s not because these people are confronting great trauma or tragedy. The reason people cry in Australian Story is because those interviews go for like 8 hours. It’s like water boarding. By the end, you’ll be talking about what you had for breakfast and then burst into tears and want to give them the nuclear codes. It’s like Guantanamo Bay.”

Peter Fray

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