Did she jump or was she pushed? It’s the big question being asked of Helen McCabe’s shock announcement to quit as editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly yesterday.
McCabe is reportedly quitting the role she’s had for nearly eight years to go out on her own – reportedly a new online editorial venture. However, with a $400,000 a year salary and one of the most prestigious media roles in the country there’s plenty of speculation that McCabe was shown the door by publisher Bauer. After all, Bauer is doing practically everything – closing underperforming titles and capping staff salaries – to keep its costs down as circulations falter and ad dollars go elsewhere.
B&T contacted McCabe for this article but as yet have not received a reply.
And allegedly McCabe’s departure has been a long time in the planning. A Bauer employee who spoke to B&T with the guarantee of anonymity has revealed that Bauer plans to consolidate both its Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day editorial teams. Apparently this has been common knowledge in the Bauer corridors since late last year.
Any consolidation would mean one of the editors of the two titles would get the chop and that turns out to be the highly paid McCabe.
According to B&T’s source the consolidation of the the two titles – one weekly and one monthly – will be led by Woman’s Day editor Fiona Connolly
Connolly is highly thought of at Bauer and has been instrumental in Woman’s Day consistently winning the women’s weekly fight against arch rivals New Idea and WHO and Bauer’s own weekly titles NW, OK and Take 5. This, presumably, would also make Connolly the frontrunner to take McCabe’s old job.
And consolidation is nothing new. Bauer did it successfully when it merged the struggling Dolly with Cleo sacking a number of editorial staff and an editor in the process. Bauer has worked hard in recent times to consolidate a number of its properties – that had had a history of acrimony – into a more workable team, combining its magazine, digital and food arms.
However, Connolly’s no shoe-in to walk into the prestigious role and, arguably, the successful candidate would now have to edit not one but two titles.
The Sydney Morning Herald, in an article by its celebrity columnist Andrew Hornery, reported this morning that Bauer has a “long list of contenders” for the coveted (and presumably very well paid) editor’s role.
Hornery also quotes an anonymous Bauer employee as saying: “It will most likely be a woman; she will almost certainly already be in Australia because that is key to the magazine’s success, understanding the local psyche … and I think they will be looking for someone with a family, who really understands that mindset.
“Helen had a great love of politics and, while that probably made a few headlines for her and impressed a lot of her mates in Canberra, it didn’t necessarily resonate with the traditional Weekly readers who still want their fix of royal stories and celebrity profiles.”
According to Hornery a number of other editor names are in the mix including New Idea’s Louisa Hatfield, Cosmopolitan’s Bronwyn McCahon and even Mamamia’s Mia Freedman.
The SMH article also surmises that a man could be a contender, however it was highly unlikely. The Weekly’s executive editor Bryce Corbett could put his hand up but “would be a gamble though. They need someone the female readers can identify with and, while he may understand them very well, I doubt he would translate as being the figurehead of the Weekly in a television commercial,” the insider told Fairfax.