Ralston edited out of frame at retro Metro

By JOSIE CLARKE

Bill Ralston has been replaced as editor of Metro magazine by the publication's founder, Warwick Roger.

Ralston, who took over as editor in April 1997, and just weeks ago saw his main television role thrown into doubt, will remain with the magazine for now as editor-at-large.

Bruce Cotterill, managing director of Australian Consolidated Press (ACP), Metro's publisher, said Ralston had decided to step aside from the day-to-day running of the magazine to "pursue other media interests."

Ralston said his editorship of Metro had been hugely enjoyable, but it was time someone else had a chance to run the magazine.

"I can continue to do what I enjoy most - which is write - and still contribute to the overall ... magazine.

"At the same time I have a long-held interest in broadcasting and need to devote more energy to a couple of programme formats being developed for next year.

"If I want to do anything in broadcasting or other media next year I have to get going on it now, because if I didn't I'd wake up next year with nothing."

Metro sold 40,000 copies a month in its heyday. Circulation now sits at less than 19,000, down from about 23,000 when Ralston took over.

Ralston insists that it is still a profitable magazine for ACP. "The real problem is mine. I've always had a career where I've got something else going."

Just over a week ago, Ralston told the Sunday Star-Times that Metro was his priority and that he had no immediate plans involving television. TVNZ has also pulled the plug on Backch@t, the arts and media show he hosted.

Yesterday, Ralston said Metro was not a priority. "A couple of producers made it abundantly clear to me that coming back in January was too late. If you want to get something up [for TV] you do it now.

"With the editor-at-large role I have maintained everything I like doing at Metro magazine, which is the writing part of it."

Asked if he went to ACP with the idea or was approached by the publisher, Ralston said: "I don't know ... It was my basic construction if you like, but I don't want to say that I forced ACP into that position because I didn't.

"I've never really analysed how it came about because I've had discussions with Bruce Cotterill for about six months [about what effect TV work was having on the Metro job].

"When Backch@t went, I went and talked to him and he asked could I cope with getting programme formats up and running and edit the magazine at the same time, and I had to sit there and say, 'No, I can't actually'."

On his television plans, Ralston pointed to: "A one-off celebrity debate on TV3 next month and a couple of other things that will come to pass."

He said he would wind up the Metro post at the end of this month.

Roger, who left the magazine in 1994 after 13 years, said ACP had asked him to return. His immediate goal was to stop the circulation of Metro falling any further by injecting "more solid journalism."

"It's an interesting challenge. I don't intend to do it for the rest of my life, but the company asked me to step in and I think it would be churlish not to."

Roger, who is editor-at-large of North & South magazine, has Parkinson's disease.

He would continue with Metro for up to six months while ACP decided on a permanent editor, but said he might stay longer "if it works."

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