A new editorial board chaired by a predecessor will oversee the first female editor-in-chief of Rupert Murdoch’s national daily The Australian.
The appointment of Michelle Gunn – the paper’s editor since May 2020 and a former editor of Saturday edition the Weekend Australian – comes after her predecessor, Chris Dore was shown the door following an incident at a NewsCorp reception in the US. A statement had blamed his departure on “ill health”.
It will be chaired by Paul Whittaker, who is currently chief executive of Sky News Australia.
The board is one of two being created by News Corp Australia. In addition to an editorial board for The Australian, the publisher is also creating an editorial board to oversee strategic decisions for its broader group of titles in Australia.
Their establishment may signal a “changing of the guard” as Rupert Murdoch, now 91 and single again, hands more responsibilities to his elder son and co-chairman Lachlan. Despite repeated denials of influence, Murdoch senior’s Australian top editors have often had a “direct line” to the proprietor, while his son is understood to be less content-focussed.
While Whittaker’s role is non-executive, a News Corp statement says the new board will be “an active forum” for him and The Australian’s leadership team “to guide coverage and develop editorial direction and opportunities”. A report in the paper says Gunn – who reports to executive chairman Australasia Michael Miller – and Whittaker will be joined by “a small group of senior leaders”.
Brisbane Courier-Mail Saturday and Sunday Mail editor Kelvin Healey becomes editor of The Australian, while Edwina McCann’s prestige network and Conde Nast responsibilities are being expanded.
Chair of the new News Corp editorial board Mick Carroll – who is national weekend editor and editor of Sydney’s Saturday and Sunday Telegraphs – will continue to report to the executive chairman.
In a statement this week, Miller described Gunn as an outstanding journalist and editor. “Her leadership and deep understanding of The Australian’s relationship with its audience will ensure its trusted and news-breaking journalism sets the national news agenda.
“Her editorship has seen The Australian achieve record readership and she will drive its growth and digital success as it approaches its 60th year.”
He said the paper’s editorial board would provide “input and feedback on enhancements for the masthead’s editorial direction and commitment to first-class news coverage and commentary”.
Whittaker spoke of his “deep affection” for the national paper and said he and Gunn had developed “strong collaboration” in talent sharing and content creation, resulting in record readership and viewership.