“It’s going to be a roller coaster but I’ll love it!” So says the redoubtable Max Uechtritz about his just-announced move from editor- in-chief of Ninemsn to run English programming for Al Jazeera, based in Doha.
Uechtritz, who on Facebook describes himself as a member of the group “People Who Always Have to Spell their Names for Other People” has had what might be called a rich career, which may be about to get a whole lot richer.
This evening Uechtritz told me the reason for his move was the opportunity to work with some of the best in the business, plus the Al Jazeera “mantra” of giving a voice to the voiceless.
Which of course, makes the station controversial. Not that Uechtritz will be any stranger to that.
Between 2000-2004, Uechtritz was Executive Director of News and Current Affairs with ABC Australia, appointed by but soon in conflict with the (ahem) mercurial managing director Jonathan Shier. It was reportedly Uechtritz standing up to Shier, resisting his moves against 7.30 Report host Kerry O’Brien that was the immediate cause of Shier’s removal by the ABC Board.
Then Uechtritz moved on to replace Peter Meakin as Director of News at the Nine Network, after Meakin stomped off after a clash with the “black prince” of the Packer organisation, John Alexander.
After that, he was Network Director of News for Nine Network Australia, and then came his current position as Editor in Chief of Ninemsn, the country’s leading web portal and notable in recent years for hiring and developing young journalistic talent at a time when that particular ball has been dropped by many other news organisations.
Al Jazeera English is, of course, the sister organisation to the Arab language Al Jazeera, and is the first English language news service to be headquartered in the Middle-East.
The station says it aims “to give voice to untold stories, promote debate, and challenge established perceptions”, and to “set the news agenda, bridging cultures and providing a unique grassroots perspective from under-reported regions around the world”.
In the past, of course, this has included getting the leaks of Osama bin Laden’s latest missives.
Uechtritz’s life is unlikely to get any quieter.
First Jonathan Shier, then John Alexander, then…Osama?
Uechtritz is due to take up his post on 18 January. He tells me that the Australian’s media commentator Mark Day has already promised to visit him.