Saying goodbye to the best job in journalism

When I was offered the job as editor of The Sydney Morning Herald almost five years ago, I swore with incredulity. Not my finest moment, but thankfully my then-bosses laughed as I did. I simply couldn’t believe it. The chance to lead this great masthead was – and remains – an extraordinary honour.

This week I announced it was time to move on. Five years in an all-consuming 24/7 role, plus the years before in other senior positions, has taken its toll. It is time for me to take a break and pursue new challenges.

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Earlier this year as we celebrated 190 years of the Herald, we reflected on what the masthead had achieved in almost two centuries. But as I said in my note to the newsroom on Tuesday, the past couple of years have challenged us in ways we could never have imagined.

First the Black Summer bushfires of two years ago, which stretched us to breaking point as the state burned. Chief photographer Nick Moir’s personal experience during that period, and the images he and so many others captured during those weeks, will stay with me a long time. I’m proud that we were the first to call out the inextricable link with climate change through this piece by former fire chief Greg Mullins, and then-environment minister Matt Kean’s bold statement of the same fact, “this is not normal”.

Just as we recovered from those relentlessly hazy weeks, the rains and floods came – followed quickly by COVID-19, which arrived on our shores almost immediately afterwards. Since then, it has felt like nothing else mattered. The pandemic has consumed us all, forcing unprecedented disruption across the world and to our own local communities. Separately, but interconnected, there have been seismic geopolitical shifts, led by Donald Trump and his exit from the White House, regional disruptions and federal political turmoil. The greatest Australian success story of the pandemic was the Berejiklian government’s response here in NSW; meaning our readers have felt her personal revelations and alleged professional failings acutely.

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My five years at the helm has gone by in a flash; the speed with which the news cycle moves these days has certainly helped that along. But as a newsroom, we’ve grown in confidence and I feel incredibly proud to be leaving at a time of such strength. Even as I write this, we are preparing to publish shocking new details in a long-running crime investigation. There are plenty more news breaks like it in the pipeline.

The journalists, columnists, photographers, designers and senior editors at the Herald are the best at what they do. Above and beyond their skill, what sets them apart is that they put you – our readers – at the centre of everything. The Herald’s legacy infuses in us all an element of service – a commitment to shining light in dark places, to holding the powerful to account, and improving society for the benefit of all readers. Long may that continue because without our millions of diverse, loyal, passionate and highly engaged readers, the Herald would not be thriving the way it is today.

As I told the newsroom, I believe my job really is the best in journalism. I feel so privileged to have sat in this chair, daunting as it has been at times, and following the footsteps of the two trailblazing female editors before me.


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