Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly fired over the phone

Veteran Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly fired over the phone


Elizabeth Farrelly, a Sydney Morning Herald columnist for over thirty years, has had her contract abruptly terminated according to reports.

Last night, SMH revealed that the opinion columnist “will no longer publish a regular column, marking an end to more than three decades of working for the masthead.”

“The decision was made by the Herald’s editor Bevan Shields after Farrelly failed to disclose that she had registered as a candidate for the Labor Party in the Strathfield local government elections when she wrote a piece criticising Liberal and independent councillors in the electorate,” the Herald’s media and telecommunications reporter Zoe Samios explained. 

Farrelly’s piece was published on December 4, the day of the local government elections.

“An editor’s note declaring her registration was added to the piece last Friday,” Samios explained, though Farrelly decided not to run for election.

Shields, who was appointed as Editor earlier this month, thanked Farrelly for her “longstanding contribution to the Herald” in the article announcing her leave, adding “The Herald is determined to extend its coverage of urban design and architecture, and this will include new voices in our opinion pages in 2022.”

“Elizabeth’s registration as a Labor candidate should have been disclosed to us and our readers.”

“Her registration makes future contributions very difficult given the close connection between urban development and politics.”

According to Farrelly, Shields called her on Sunday from the UK to terminate her employment.

Farrelly reacted on Facebook, claiming she was fired via a short phone call, describing the decision as a “ruthless king hit”.

“Today, after a working relationship lasting more than three decades, my time with the Sydney Morning Herald came to an abrupt end,” she wrote.

“According to the five-minute out-of-the-blue phone call I received from the new editor on the other side of the world, this termination is due to an apparent lack of transparency on my part.”

Farrelly said she had joined the Labor Party and her failure to disclose her registration was an oversight – not an intentional plan to mislead the public or the Herald.

“There was brief chatter about my making a possible tilt at a state or federal seat or perhaps joining the local council,” she continued.

“It was unresolved and I was only vaguely interested but, on the last day before registrations closed … simply to keep my options open, I registered my interest online.”

“I was not preselected for the Labor federal candidate, nor for the Labor Council ticket, so I did not run in the recent council election.”

“I’d be dishonest not to admit that this new change in direction scares me to death.”

“On the other hand, it’s time for a change and I am determined to transform the Herald’s ruthless king-hit into a new opportunity. Watch this space.”

The Former Assistant Editor at The Architectural Review has published more than five books, and trained in architecture and philosophy. Before settling in Sydney, she lived and worked in Auckland, London and Bristol. 

Image: Louise Kennerley

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