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Veteran publisher Morry Schwartz, owner of Schwartz Media which produces The Saturday Paper, The Monthly and the 7am Podcast, has stepped down as the company’s chair.
Schwartz told staff on Monday in an email that he was stepping aside as chair and stepping back from day-to-day operations, one month after chief executive Rebecca Costello departed to join Guardian Australia.
Schwartz told this masthead it was the right moment to take a break, and that internal opposition to coverage of the Gaza conflict did not play a role in the timing of his move.
Schwartz Media founder and executive chair Morry Schwartz is stepping down.Credit: Peter Braig
“There’s lots of reasons,” Schwartz said. “I’m stepping aside to give them the freedom to run the company. All of the people there are terrific.
“I’m going to give myself a holiday.”
Schwartz, who has been acting as interim chief executive, said he was not considering a sale of the company.
Founded in the 1980s, Schwartz Media has become one of Australia’s largest independent media businesses and a leading voice in progressive media. Its weekly print publication, The Saturday Paper, will reach a decade in circulation in 2024.
Some prominent journalists at Schwartz Media were among those to sign a cross-industry letter in November urging “improved coverage” of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The letter prompted a range of responses from editorial leadership and management across different outlets.
Schwartz said coverage of the conflict did not contribute to his decision to step down as chair.
“Not really. No, it hasn’t,” he said.
Erik Jensen is editor-in-chief of Schwartz Media.Credit: Josh Robenstone
A number of journalists from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age also signed the letter.
“I’m willing to accept that some of those who signed the letter may have done so in good faith. They did this as a response to the horror of war. I do not, however, believe the letter represents a blueprint for impartial reporting,” Schwartz, whose parents are Holocaust survivors, told The Australian after the letter’s publication.
Responding to the letter, Schwartz Media editor-in-chief Erik Jensen said no action was taken in regard to their journalists.
“We uphold the rights of journalists to express their personal opinions,” Jensen said.
“Schwartz Media is founded on principles of balance, objectivity, fairness and scepticism. We stand by our reporting on this issue, which is based on careful fact-checking and context. These are the standards we will continue to uphold.”
Schwartz also confirmed the company would have a new chief executive joining in February, an appointment that would take the business into its next stage of growth.
“It’s a positive story. I’ve been doing it for 50 years, and it’s time for a bit of time in the country.”
Anna Schwartz, Melbourne gallery owner and Schwartz’s wife, this month ended a 36-year professional relationship with performance artist Mike Parr after he created a political artwork in her gallery that made her feel “sick”.
She said on Monday that she dropped Parr because he painted the word “Nazi” next to the word “Israel” in blood-red in a performance at her gallery earlier this month.
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