Christopher Dore lost his job as editor-in-chief of the Australian after attending a Wall Street Journal event in Laguna Beach, California, last month, where Rupert Murdoch’s top executives were present.
During his 31 years at News Corp, Dore edited four mastheads for Murdoch and was the most powerful editorial executive in his Australian business.
He was close to the co-chairman of News Corp, Lachlan Murdoch, who was made general manager of Queensland Newspapers in the 1990s and then was publisher of the Australian.
As well as being editor-in-chief of the Australian for four years, Dore edited the Daily Telegraph, the Courier Mail and the Sunday Times in Perth and was deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph.
But when he announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing “personal health issues”, there were no accolades from the Murdochs or the company’s top brass.
Sources said there was a meeting of the News Corp Australia editorial board, which Dore chairs, on Wednesday afternoon and an email went out to staff soon after saying Dore was leaving the company. Even the editorial executives at Holt Street were blindsided by the news.
Three weeks earlier Dore joined News Corp’s global chief, Robert Thomson, and executives from Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal at the WSJ Tech Live conference in California, held at Laguna Beach between 24 and 26 October.
Speakers included the model and skin care entrepreneur Hailey Rhode Bieber and the now-embattled crypto king Sam Bankman-Fried.
Guardian Australia has confirmed Dore attended the event and was witnessed chatting with top executives at one of a number of cocktail parties held at the event.
Sources said after witnessing Dore’s behaviour, News Corp management told him to take an extended break.
He never returned to the company.
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The WSJ Tech Live conference was a News Corp global event attended by the company’s sponsors, advertisers and executives. It was hosted by the CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of the WSJ, Almar Latour, and Thomson.
News Corp declined to comment on the exact circumstances of Dore’s abrupt departure, not just from the newspaper but from the company.
In an email to staff, the News Corp Australasia executive chairman, Michael Miller, said: “Chris is also undergoing surgery this week and we wish him the best.
“I have asked Michelle Gunn to continue to edit the Australian,” Miller’s note said.
“Michelle, who also began her career as a cadet on the Australian, has been editor since May 2020 and previously was editor of the Weekend Australian for eight years.”
Miller went on to praise Gunn as having an “insightful understanding of the Australian’s audience and the issues and debates that interest them most, which are at the heart of the nation’s future”, without a word of praise for Dore.
In his own note to staff, Dore said he was “exhausted” and “can’t keep going on like this”.
“I have long-standing personal health issues I need to resolve and am leaving News to concentrate on restoring my health,” he said. “I will also be undergoing surgery this week, so will have to postpone farewells until a later time.”
In his note to staff, Dore said he had been “blessed” to edit four Murdoch titles.
“I am beyond proud that this year the Australian recorded its most profitable result in our near 60-year history, as Robert Thomson noted at the News Awards, and has transformed into a genuine digital powerhouse, built on the biggest subscriber base of loyal, passionate readers and a group of innovative and adventurous journalists, photographers, designers and editors,” he said.
In March Dore was asked by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas to be the first in a series of editors to speak about his craft.
In his lecture he said the media industry was being tarnished by activist journalists who had “an irrational and tireless obsession with tearing down News Corporation journalism”.
He said some journalists were so “vain self-obsessed, craving, indulgent, needy” that they were “undermining their profession” and they should stick to reporting and not give their opinion.
“Too many journalists are inserting themselves into their stories or, worse still, into other reporters’ stories,” Dore said. “Some reporters are chasing the cheap, wild and ready-made approval of the in-crowd instead of chasing the more elusive yarn.”