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Search under way for new Australian Women's Weekly editor-in-chief

A long list of contenders is being drawn up inside the offices of Bauer Media for what has been billed as the most powerful job in Australian magazine publishing as the search gets under way for a new editor-in-chief following Wednesday's announcement that Helen McCabe was vacating the helm of The Australian Women's Weekly.

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"It will most likely be a woman; she will almost certainly already be in Australia because that is key to the magazine's success, understanding the local psyche ... and I think they will be looking for someone with a family, who really understands that mindset," a senior magazine publishing figure working within the highly political Bauer camp revealed on Thursday on the grounds of anonymity.

"Helen had a great love of politics and, while that probably made a few headlines for her and impressed a lot of her mates in Canberra, it didn't necessarily resonate with the traditional Weekly readers who still want their fix of royal stories and celebrity profiles."

The successful applicant will be following in some seriously well-known shoes, from the likes of the magazine's longest serving editor Dawn Swain, who started working there in 1950 and retired on the same day in 2000, having been editor-in-chief from 1976 to 1985.

Then there was Ita Buttrose, one of the first editors to become the "face" of the magazine and Deborah Thomas, who, with a decade at the helm, ranks among the longest serving editors.

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But the new editor-in-chief could also be a man. One of the names being bandied about as a potential suitor is the Weekly's current executive editor and father-of-two, Bryce Corbett, who has written everything from profiles on Princess Mary to "at home" stories with television personalities.

"Bryce would be a gamble though. They need someone the female readers can identify with and, while he may understand them very well, I doubt he would translate as being the figurehead of the Weekly in a television commercial," the insider told PS.

Warning: Former editor Mia Freedman.
Warning: Former editor Mia Freedman. 

Other names in the mix include magazine stalwart Louisa Hatfield, editor-in-chief at rival publisher Pacific Magazines' New Idea, who is well-versed in the craft of mass-market women's magazines.

A popular name within Bauer has been Cosmopolitan magazine's editor Bronwyn McCahon, although her ability to generate headline-making content is yet to be seen in a broader title such as the Weekly.

In the mix: Lisa Green, Louisa Hatfield, Bronwyn McCahon, Nicky Briger, Fiona Connolly.
In the mix: Lisa Green, Louisa Hatfield, Bronwyn McCahon, Nicky Briger, Fiona Connolly. Photos: Janie Barrett, Jacky Ghossein, Helen Nezdropa, Steve Baccon

Digital publisher Mia Freedman has also been touted as a possibility given her knowledge of the new publishing world of online media and her high profile, as well as previous experience editing women's magazines, though whether she would forsake her own empire building seems unlikely.

Fellow Bauer editor Fiona Connolly at Woman's Day has also been touted as a potential candidate. A young mother, she has carved out a career as a showbiz and social journalist formerly with The Daily Telegraph. In more recent years, she has steered the highly profitable magazine through several turbulent periods.

It will most likely be a woman; she will almost certainly already be in Australia because that is key to the magazine's success ... and I think they will be looking for someone with a family, who really understands that mindset.

Former editor of Who magazine Nicky Briger, who last year was made editor of Marie Claire under the ever-present eye of publishing director Jackie Frank, has also been named as a suitable candidate; another mother, she is also very popular with advertisers and comes from a strong editorial background.

House & Garden editor Lisa Green has also been named as a possibility. Having already served in a brief senior editorial role on the Weekly, she knows the title well.