Jaspan eases staff fears as he takes Age chair

Jaspan: moving to Australia

Sunday Herald editor Andrew Jaspan spoke to his 400 new staff at The Age, Melbourne, by video-conference phone to quell any doubts they had about an Englishman coming to edit their broadsheet.

Jaspan went to Glasgow university to use the facility when the journalists were told officially he was to be their next editor. There had been some qualms among them – he did not have the “strong Melbourne credentials” they would have liked, they told their Fairfax management – even before they knew he had got the job.

Jaspan set out to reassure them by telling them that he would be leaving the day-to-day editing to deputy Simon Mann while he meets the team and hears their views on where the paper should move next.

“I’m there initially to listen,” he told Press Gazette. “I’m going to very much depend on them, because they know Melbourne, they know Australia, to tell me where they think the paper is working and where it is not and areas we need to look at.”

He has garnered some views on The Age already, having spent a fortnight in Melbourne with his wife, Karen, and two sons this summer. He had been about to leave for Dubrovnik on holiday when Age publishers Fairfax, which headhunted him in spring, switched his plans for him.

What followed was certainly not a holiday. He had about 14 meetings with the top brass in Sydney and Melbourne, including the chairman of the Fairfax board, chief executive Fred Hillman, current Age editor Michael Gawenda and Mark Scott, editor-inchief.

A jet-lagged Jaspan flew back to resume editing his Glasgow newspaper before finally hearing late on Monday last week that he had clinched the job.

The launch editor of the Sunday Herald six years ago, he is now the longest-serving Scottish national newspaper editor. He has also edited the Sunday Times Scotland, Scotland on Sunday, The Scotsman, The Observer and the Big Issue.

Impressed with the thoroughness which Fairfax recruited a new editor and that the company has no one big investor but is owned by shareholders, he said: “They are committed to quality journalism, editorial independence and free-thinking papers.” He described the daily Age as a cross between The Guardian and The Times.

The 400 staff – of whom 23 are going to the Olympics, compared with the Sunday Herald’s one – will be a big change from the 50 Jaspan is used to.

Tim Blott, Jaspan’s managing director, has already had calls and CVs from candidates for the Sunday Herald job.

He will be interviewing in the next few weeks though no date has been fixed for Jaspan’s departure.

“I’m very disappointed to lose Andrew,” he said. “This paper is his baby. He has done a brilliant job here and has built up a very good team.”

By Jean Morgan

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