(Image: AAP/Paul Miller)

Jon Kudelka, the multiple Walkley-winning cartoonist and long-time contributor to The Australian and The Hobart Mercury is leaving News Corp for more progressive pastures. He is set to join The Saturday Paper as its new political cartoonist. 

Kudelka is now the eighth high-profile departure from the Oz so far this year. Former China correspondent Scott Murdoch is now with Reuters, while former Indigenous affairs reporter Stephen Fitzpatrick filed for The Monthly in May. Social affairs writer Rick Morton and investigative journalist Anthony Klan both also left in the space of a weekend. Morton has since found a new home as a senior reporter at The Saturday Paper.

Political reporter Primrose Riordan, who had announced her exit weeks earlier, has since joined the Financial Times in Hong Kong. Strewth columnist (and frequent Kudelka collaborator) James Jeffrey announced he was quitting to become opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s speechwriter. And Chip Le Grand, the paper’s chief reporter in Melbourne, who had frequently defended the Oz against some of its fiercest critics, is now with The Age. 

The flurry of departures in the aftermath of the Coalition’s shock election victory in May perhaps points to a growing tension between reporters and an increasingly dogmatic, conservative editorial line. Morton’s exit came not long after he appeared to bemoan the increasingly partisan direction his former employer was taking, telling a group of journalism students that “the craziness has been dialled up”.

In a tweet announcing his exit, Klan said he had “serious misgivings about the direction that is now being taken” at the Oz. 

Since the election, the paper’s ideological stances have hardened. It is currently facing a boycott in response to its campaign against transgender children. The national broadsheet has also spent the last few days attacking teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.

It’s unclear whether Kudelka’s move was the result of political differences — around the time of his unveiling, he scrubbed about five years’ worth of tweets from his Twitter account. Still, it’s another big coup for The Saturday Paper and leaves The Australian short another of its “good journalists”

Who’ll be next to flee the Oz? Send your predictions to [email protected].

Peter Fray

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