ABC to axe opinion site The Drum as it looks to shift away from ‘traditional opinion writing’

The ABC is set to axe its controversial opinion website The Drum as the ABC seeks to shift away from “traditional opinion writing” towards providing more “context and analysis audiences need”.

The decision is being touted as the first significant move by new managing director Michelle Guthrie.


In an email sent to staff today, Gaven Morris, head of news content at the ABC, said the public broadcaster would be “discontinuing The Drum as our online brand for analysis and opinion” with the site set to close this week.

Morris said: “Going beyond the headlines to give audiences a deeper understanding of stories has always been a vital element of what ABC News does. Currently we are reworking how we approach this type of content on our digital platforms, shifting our emphasis from traditional opinion writing towards more of the essential context and analysis audiences need in order to fully understand and interpret the major stories and important issues.”

The Drum is the ABC’s online opinion section edited by Chip Rolley and featuring opinion and news analysis from from columnists and contributors from inside and outside the ABC.

Morris said Rolley will be leaving the ABC when his current contract expires, however reassured staff that “there are no redundancies as a result of this change”.

“The Drum has been a successful initiative for ABC News as a forum for commentary and debate, but as our digital audiences continue to grow and develop, and we continue to manage tight resources, it’s time for us to do this type of content in a different way,” Morris said.

“An analysis and opinion page will remain on the ABC News site and there are no redundancies as a result of this change.”

ABC contributors such as Annabel Crabb, Barrie Cassidy and Ian Verrender will continue to write for the ABC.

“We’ll also still have the capacity to work with community and academic partners to offer more analysis. We are keen to provide all Australians with a digital home for Australian politics and policy, and I’ll have more to say on that in the weeks ahead,” Morris said.

He concluded by paying tribute to The Drum and to the team behind it, saying: “It’s a path setter at the ABC and we now aim to build on its great work”.

The Drum has long been a source of contention amongst commercial publishers, with Private Media’s Eric Beecher in 2010 accusing the ABC of straying outside its charter remit with the launch of the site.

He said: “That they would decide to enter this space in such an aggressive way surprises and puzzles me. It’s a space that is already extremely well served. It’s hardly a core activity on the ABC’s part.”

The Drum website’s sister program on ABC TV is not affected.

Former Google and News Corp exec Michelle Guthrie was named as Mark Scott’s replacement as MD of the public broadcaster at the end of last year, stepping into the role at the start of May.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.