The latest annual report from Fairfax painted a fairly grim picture for the Australian-owned media company, with a loss of A$401 million on the back of a A$651 million writedown in the value of its mastheads and a 40 percent reduction in the value of its share price this year. In an effort to raise capital, local teacher's pet TradeMe is set to be partially floated and changes are also being made within both the New Zealand newspaper and magazine divisions.
We received a tip-off earlier this week saying all the art directors and designers at Fairfax Magazines had been asked to reapply for their jobs. Fairfax Magazines' general manager Lynley Belton hasn't returned our calls, but sources we've spoken to say a senior member of the Australian team gave a presentation to staff earlier this week that largely consisted of slumping graphs, lots of zeroes and glazed eyes.
Paul Thompson, group executive director of Fairfax Media, was also unable to be contacted to discuss the changes, but Courtney Lambert, the new marketing and communications manager, says the design review is currently in the consultation stage so nothing has been decided yet and staff haven't yet been asked to reapply for their jobs. But, given cost cutting is most definitely on the radar for Fairfax, it seems job losses are likely. And it also gives some credence to the recent study about the perilous state of New Zealand's media by AUT University's Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy.
Following the recent closure of NZPA after 130 years (check out long-time staffer Max Lambert's take on it), Fairfax is also ringing changes to its newspaper division and is currently integrating the Editorial Services Hub, "an in-house team of journalists which will provide editorial production services to Fairfax newspapers and websites", into its portfolio.
According to Lambert this is an extension of a policy that began with the creation of the national subbing hub in 2008, which led to around 40 redundancies. But she says no jobs will be lost this time.
According to a letter sent to staff by David King, the editor at the Timaru Herald who was appointed to the role of general manager of Fairfax Editorial Services in May, The Southland Times joined the hub in July, The Dominion Post’s first night transition was hectic because of forces beyond its control but since then things have gone smoothly, and The Press started the integration process on September 12.
Lois Turei has joined as Fairfax Editorial Services’ chief of staff and Esther Sinke has been lured across from APN as creative director. The roles of chief sub-editor, head of communities and the the final senior position, head of digital sub-editing are soon to be announced.
Lois has a huge amount of experience with the people and the systems in this company and I believe she will make an outstanding chief of staff.
Her main task will be staff development – making sure that we do everything necessary to give the team the skills and training necessary to produce great newspapers and digital products.
Esther is art director at The New Zealand Herald and TheWeekend Herald. She is not only a great design practitioner and Genera specialist, but also someone with the vision and leadership skills we need to lead our graphics team. Her brief is fairly simple, to make sure that everything we do looks great and to makes sure our graphics team is at the table when we contemplate and plan every story we tell in print or online.
I’d like to pay tribute to Kay Forrester’s work as acting chief of staff since Cate Hogan’s departure. Kay has done an outstanding job and has put in huge hours during difficult times to make sure we deliver. She will continue to look after production schedules and rosters until we appoint a chief sub-editor. The chief sub-editor’s role should be confirmed by the end of September at the latest.
Back in May, Fairfax chief executive Allen Williams said: "We are also focused on improving the effectiveness of the staff who produce our newspapers and websites. David King is charged with ensuring our sub-editors work as a team to produce high quality publications for our readers. Many media companies are opting to contract out this editorial production work. In New Zealand, however, we believe the best approach is to utilise our own skilled staff to do this work."