Editor of The Age Alex Lavelle has exited his role after almost four years as editor, less than a week after the paper’s journalists voiced their concern over the editorial direction of the masthead.
In an email to all-staff on Thursday afternoon seen by B&T, executive editor James Chessell announced Lavelle’s departure.
Chessell wrote: “After 20 years Alex Lavelle is leaving The Age. I’m sure you will join me in wishing Alex all the best and acknowledge his immense contribution to the masthead.
“Put simply – Alex’s editorship has returned The Age to a position of strength.
Over the past three-and-a-half years The Age has expanded its subscriber base, grown its audience and represented the interests of its readers without fear or favour. The Age newsroom can feel confident about its future at a time much of the media industry faces uncertainty. This is, in large part, down to Alex’s hard work.”
In the interim, Michelle Griffin has been appointed Acting Editor of The Age while the masthead looks for a new permanent editor, with external and internal candidates being considered.
Lavelle also wrote to staff about the “privilege” he’d had to lead a “great masthead and wonderful newsroom”.
He wrote: “I am immensely proud of the extraordinary journalism we have produced and of the positive impact so much of our work has had. We have achieved great things together.
“To our passionate, talented and dedicated staff, I wish you all the best of luck and have no doubt that you will go from strength to strength. I also want to thank our growing band of readers and subscribers for their support, without which we couldn’t do what we do.”
Lavelle’s departure comes less than a week after roughly 70 journalists from The Age expressed their concern over what they suggested was an increasing politicisation of the newspaper under executive editor James Chessell, as reported on The Guardian last week.
In a letter to Chessell, publishing officer Chris Janz and Lavelle, the journalists said they were concerned about maintaining the “proud reputation and independence” of the masthead with editors putting pressure on journalists “to produce particular angles”.
They wrote: “We believe there is a growing public perception that we have become politicised, a perception that is damaging the reputation of The Age and, potentially, the viability of the business.
“Politicisation undermines Nine’s commitment to editorial independence, and hurts the Age masthead, beneath which appear the words “Independent. Always.”
“As independent journalists we do not favour any political position, party or ideology,” they wrote.
“Our job is to find facts, make sense of them and explain them to our readers. We believe stories should be assessed on their journalistic merit.”
“We are concerned that key editorial decisions are being made on a regular basis from Sydney, rather than by local editors with a better understanding of our readers, our city and our state.
“We want to make it very clear we do not seek to single out individual journalists for criticism. Our concerns are about the system and culture in which we work.”
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