Media Land is abuzz with the major reshuffle at Avusa announced today. First up, Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya is to become editor-in-chief of Avusa Media newspapers. The editor of The Times, Ray Hartley, will be the editor of the Sunday Times and then the editor of Business Times, Phylicia Oppelt, will become the editor of The Times. The latter will both report to Mondli as will all other editors of Avusa Media newspapers, says the group’s press release.
So what’s up at Biermann Avenue? It’s certainly a promotion for Ray Hartley as he gets the jewel in Avusa’s crown though its under circulation pressure, is facing an aggressive play for market share from Media24’s City Press and Rapport and it was hit by a severe decline in careers advertising last year amid the recession. (Click here to read an interview I did with Mondli about the Sunday Times a few weeks back.)
Ray’s appointment is an excellent one: he knows the Sunday Times inside out as he was their very smart political editor and head of news for years before he took over at The Times when it was launched a few years ago. Ray is also a strategic thinker and plays his cards close to his chest so I think we will see the battle for the Sunday broadsheet readers hotting up.
For Mondli, I’m not so sure it’s a promotion. The company’s press release says he will be “charged with setting up and running centres of excellence that will produce unique, original and compelling content for all of the group’s newspapers and websites. In this new role, he would also represent the interests of editors on the Avusa Media management committee”.
I’m skeptical that he will have much to do in his new role. He no longer has a title of his own and the publishing responsibilities of Avusa’s newspapers are taken care of by CEO Mike Robertson, also a former editor of the Sunday Times, along with various operations chiefs. That phrase “centres of excellence” has a hollow ring to it — much as someone being tasked with looking after “special projects” does.
Phylicia’s appointment is a big promotion and we’ve seen her raising her profile over the past two months with her column at The Times so this is not entirely unexpected as she has long been in Robertson’s inner circle.
What can I say about her taking over at The Times, the daily newspaper given free to Sunday Times subscribers? Well, dear user, not too much lest I stray into the arena of defamation. I can say I have known her for many years, once counted her as a friend and worked for her in various capacities when she was editor of the Daily Dispatch. But, let’s see, I can say these complementary complimentary things: she’s ambitious and has an impeccable dress sense.