Unmade: media and marketing analysis
Unmade: media and marketing analysis
'Every question was being answered the wrong way' - Erik Jensen on ten years of the Saturday Paper

'Every question was being answered the wrong way' - Erik Jensen on ten years of the Saturday Paper


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Welcome to an audio-led edition of Unmade. Today’s edition features The Saturday Paper’s editor-in-chief Erik Jensen, the only person in Australia at the helm of a national newspaper they founded.

Also in today’s post, the Unmade Index rally continues for a strong second day.

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A newsroom unlike any other: How Erik Jensen created a unique news culture at The Saturday Paper

Jensen: A gentle culture at The Saturday Paper

Back in 2014, the then communications minister Malcolm Turnbull cracked a joke at the launch of The Saturday Paper. He told proprietor Morry Schwartz: “You are not some demented plutocrat pouring more and more money into a loss making venture that is just going to peddle your opinions.”

Although Turnbull later denied it, the unnamed subject of the gag was widely assumed to be News Corp proprietor Rupert Murdoch whose newspaper The Australian was at the time loss-making.

Ten years on, The Saturday Paper has indeed run at a profit for every year of its existence, and been a rare print success story, albeit one underpinned by digital publishing.

According to founding editor Erik Jensen, now editor-in-chief across the Schwartz Media group of The Saturday Paper, The Monthly and the 7AM Podcast, Schwartz has indeed been a proprietor who has respected his editorial independence.

In a podcast conversation with Unmade’s Tim Burrowes, Jensen, who worked at the Sydney Morning Herald early in his career, discusses how Schwartz backed his idea for a newspaper that rejected newsroom orthodoxies.

Jensen says he has tried to avoid being a stereotypical editor. He describes a newsroom that most journalists would not recognise. “I’ve never yelled in a newsroom. I’ve never done anything that I saw happen in other newsrooms when I was working for bigger newspapers. I’ve never done that with my own staff because I’ve tried to do the opposite.

“It’s actually a very quiet and polite staff working on the paper. They work silently and diligently. It’s so unlike other newsroom I’ve been in. Our subs bench is almost entirely staffed by women. There’s a very gentle culture about how we treat the work we’re doing.”

Not that Jensen allows himself a stress-free working life. He discusses how his perfectionism got the better of him for his first few editions. “For the first probably 20 editions I still believed there was a perfect newspaper that could be made.

“I went quite mad trying to make that newspaper. I was working on the paper obsessively. I was rewriting every story. I was convinced that if I pushed hard enough, I could make something perfect.

“There was substantial liberation in realising that actually the news is imperfect, that the idea of a perfect newspaper is illusory, and maybe that's good, maybe that keeps us making newspapers, but I actually think when you can accept that a newspaper is always going to be flawed because the news itself is flawed, then you get a lot closer to doing interesting things with it.”

During the conversation, Jensen also tackle how The 7am Podcast and The Monthly fit into the picture and how new CEO Ben Shepherd has arrived with “a transformative plan” for the business.

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Unmade Index up as attempt to unseat SCA chair lands

The Unmade Index saw a second strong day in a row on Wednesday, rising by another 1.67% to 579.1 points.

At the top end of town, Nine was the best performer, rising by 3.35%. Seven West Media also came off its low point, gaining 2.5%.

Yesterday morning’s news that Spheria Asset Management has formalised its attempt to unseat Southern Cross Austereo chair Rob Murray didn’t cause a ripple to the share price, which stayed flat.

Spheria, which owns 9.9% of the company, wants the SCA board to move faster on accepting the takeover bid being led by ARN Media. Next week, it will be five months since ARN launched the bid; after waiting on information back from ARN, it took until last Thursday for SCA’s board to say that it did not believe the bid was high enough.

Time to leave you to your Thursday. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Editing was courtesy of Abe’s Audio, the people to talk to about voiceovers, sound design and podcast production.

Message us: letters@unmade.media

Tim Burrowes

Publisher - Unmade

Unmade: media and marketing analysis
Unmade: media and marketing analysis
Media and marketing news with all the in-depth analysis, insight and context you need.
Unmade offers industry news from an Australian perspective, from the founder of Mumbrella and the author of the best-selling book Media Unmade, Tim Burrowes