Nine's James Chessell and ousted columnist John Hewson. (Image: AP)

Nine lives A fair bit of trepidation and muttering has sprung up in the hack ranks of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald following a few days of deckchair swapping, including some that were simply tossed overboard. First, there was the departure of John Hewson and Amanda Vanstone as columnists and the arrival of Niki Savva. Savva, who worked for Nine chair Peter Costello back when he was treasurer in the Howard government, needed a place to land after leaving The Australian in protest at the thought of sharing a page with Peta Credlin. So far so good: Savva does a readable column. And it's hard to imagine too many tears being shed for Vanstone's reactionary thought bubbles. The same remains to be seen for Hewson, after his pupation into something of a dapper climate change warrior gave the former Liberal leader a point of difference. 

Appropriately for such a keen watcher of extreme weather events, Hewson caused a mini-storm at the weekend when he tweeted that he'd been done in on political grounds, complaining the media doesn't "believe in free press(noun) not controlled or restricted by govt or their sycophantic mates censorship in political or ideological matters". Newly appointed managing director of publishing (and former Joe Hockey staffer) James Chessell raised some eyebrows when he shot back: "Great take John. Guess the SMH & Age will have to muddle though with those sycophantic ideologues Hartcher, Crowe, Maley, Megalogenis, Gittins, Aly, Savva, Kelly, Carney, Ferguson, Bartholomeusz, Uhlmann, Wright, McGuiness, Knox, Irvine, Szego, Silvester, Price, Baird, Webster…"

Added to all this is the elevation of Tory Maguire, whose partner David Miles is a Liberal-linked lobbyist, to the executive editor spot (Chessell's old job). Of course, no one would suggest there's likely to be any undue influence, but it will be another factor that has some hacks watching for evidence of a jump to the right.