Editors quit The Age, SMH

The new boss of the Sydney Morning Herald says staff will find out today about Fairfax Media's plans to restructure its news operations.

Sean Aylmer has been appointed to a new role as editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sun-Herald, after the editors-in-chief of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers yesterday announced their resignations.

Mr Aylmer, who will also become editor-in-chief of the online versions of both publications, says newspapers need to keep up with the digital world and a new newsroom structure will be rolled out.

"It's kind of a new way of operating the newsroom and that's incredibly exciting and there is huge opportunities out there if we can get that right," he said.

"Maybe to the external world it'll be a bit different because it's not normally how newsrooms operate.

I think internally most people won't be too surprised." The Age editor Paul Ramadge told staff this afternoon he was standing down.

His counterpart and publisher at The Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Fray, has also stepped down, as did Sydney Morning Herald editor Amanda Wilson.

The resignations come after a tumultuous week for the media company, in which it announced a decision to axe 1,900 staff, close two major printing presses and downsize its flagship newspapers to tabloids.

The massive restructure coincided with the news mining magnate Gina Rinehart had increased her stake in the company to nearly 19 per cent.

Her move sparked speculation she was aiming to exert editorial influence over the company's media outlets.

Ms Rinehart was already the largest Fairfax shareholder before her latest acquisitions, and has previously lobbied unsuccessfully for two seats on the Fairfax board.

Mr Aylmer replaces Mr Fray as editor-in-chief, while Ms Wilson will be replaced by Darren Goodsir, with The Age expected to announce Mr Ramadge's successor today.

Mr Ramadge reportedly said he will leave the company with divided feelings, but the decision to go is not a sign that he disagrees with the cuts announced last week.

In a statement released by Fairfax Metro Media, Mr Ramadge said it had been an honour to edit The Age.

"I came to Melbourne 16 years ago because I had a deep affection for The Age and all it stood for," he said.

"I had to pinch myself when I became one of just 21 editors in The Age's proud history.

I mean it when I say I love the place.

I am extremely proud of my colleagues.

"They champion public-interest, independent journalism.

When we were challenged, by economic conditions or by those with narrow interests, we stood as one, resolute in our ethics and standards.

"These are extremely challenging times for the media.

As I leave The Age I am convinced that our nation needs The Age more than ever.

It is an essential guardian of truth and fairness." In the same statement, the CEO of Fairfax Media, Greg Hywood, said Mr Ramadge can be proud of his time at the helm of the newspaper.

"Paul has shown the way for The Age during a period of great upheaval in the industry.

His unwavering commitment to investigative journalism and breaking news has set The Age apart during his tenure.

He can feel proud," he said.

Mr Ramadge has been the editor-in-chief of the paper since 2008, after holding many other senior positions within The Age.

'Time to step out' Mr Fray said the decision to resign came after much soul searching.

"I have enjoyed a wonderful and rich journey in this company and after much soul searching decided that now is the time to step out and seek new challenges,” he said in a statement.

"I am especially proud of the investigative journalism work we've done, the many campaigns we've championed and, on the publishing side, the new products we've developed, such as the tablet, the compact business and sport and, most recently, the new Sun-Herald.

"I fully appreciate these are difficult and trying times in the media industry but I know that qualities embodied in The Age, the Herald and Canberra Times mastheads and their staff will continue to play a vital role in our society." Ms Wilson said in a statement her decision to quit as editor of the Sydney Morning Herald was not related to recent turmoil at the troubled company.

"The past 18 months as editor have been the most rewarding of my four decades as a journalist," she said.

"It has been a complete privilege to be able to lead this fabulous team of talented, committed, passionate professionals whose journalism is second to none.

"I am proud to have been part of such a vibrant newsroom where journalistic integrity and independence is paramount.

The skills and values of the Herald's journalists have made it one of the top newspapers in Australia, one of the most respected media brands and has lifted the news website to the country's number one." She said despite the challenges the company was facing she was positive about the future of the Sydney Morning Herald.

"I am handing over the reins as the Herald begins to implement a newsroom restructure that will see the most profound change in the way it operates.

It is a time of enormous challenge for the Herald, which editorial staff are facing with typical determination to succeed," she said.

"Transition on this scale is never easy, but the newsroom is more than half way there – our accomplishments with the tablet app and the website have already been recognised.

I leave the Herald well prepared to continue kicking goals." Fairfax Metro Media editorial director Gary Linnell says the company is farewelling champions of the profession.

But The Age's former editor-in-chief, Andrew Jaspan, says Fairfax is trying to cut costs before the end of the financial year, and he believes Mr Fray has been treated in a particularly shoddy way.

"He is an extremely exceptional journalist.

And he's lost as are two other very experienced journalists," he said.

"This is a cavalier way to handle some of your most experienced and loyal members of staff.

To just throw them out because you've decided to take the business and the papers in a different direction."

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