Conflict at The Sunday Times: why Ray Hartley resigned
by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley resigned from the flagship Times Media Group (TMG) newspaper, Grubstreet can reveal, because of conflict over the paper’s editorial direction with TMG MD Mike Robertson.
Two well placed sources have told Grubstreet that Hartley and Robertson – a previous editor of the Sunday Times himself – had been at loggerheads for some time.
Grubstreet approached Robertson for comment on Friday and today but he has not responded. We will update with his comment should it come.
While Hartley himself would not comment on the claims, staff members at the paper say one of the flashpoint issues was the future of one of the sections of the newspaper.
Considering that prominent columnist Fred Khumalo – who is also the Review section editor – and Marcia Klein, the Business Times editor, are part of a group of senior staff members that have been shown the door in preparation for Phylicia Oppelt taking over as editor in March, the section that caused the Hartley-Robertson showdown is likely to have been either the Review or Business Times section.
Hartley is understood to have been furious at what he perceived as unacceptable management meddling in editorial areas traditionally the domain of the paper’s editor and decided to resign.
Many were caught by surprise two weeks ago when TMG – which owns the Sunday Times, The Times, Sowetan, Sunday World, The Herald and the Daily Dispatch – announced that Hartley was to be replaced by Oppelt, who is editor of The Times.
TMG was vague about Hartley’s future when it announced his resignation, saying that he would “assume a senior position” within the company after a two-month sabbatical.
Even more surprising was that the decision to change the editor of the Sunday Times came only one week after TMG got a new management team under Andrew Bonamour, CEO of private equity company BlackStar that owns 12% of TMG.
Bonamour stepped into TMG’s CEO position after Colin Cary left unexpectedly in January. TMG said Cary left because the board and he could not reach agreement on a share-based incentive scheme for him.
In an interview with Grubstreet last week reflecting back on his editorship, Hartley said: “I thought that I was going to do it (edit the Sunday Times) for longer but in the end you’ve got to follow what happens. And I’d kind of reached a point where I felt I was treading water a little bit. When it’s time, it’s time…At a certain point you feel: ‘Maybe it’s time for a change’. And I think everybody agreed that it was.”
What do you think? Where should the line between business managers and editors be?
– SA’s leading media commentator, Gill Moodie, offers intelligence on media – old and new. Reprinted from her site Grubstreet.