We let out a wee chortle—and felt a wave of 'there but for the grace of God go us'—yesterday when we received the run-down for this week's edition of Media7, which was to discuss the proposal by Fairfax to outsource some of its Australian sub-editing requirements to New Zealand. But, slightly ironically, given the episode's focus on the loss of local knowledge and errors of fact slipping through unnoticed as a result of such decisions, it probably could have done with a sub.
Fairfax Media is in deep trouble as its share price falls and its daily newspaper circulations plummet.
We have come a long way since the big Australian mastheads – The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – were regarded as “rivers of gold”, due to the lucrative classified advertising stranglehold they held in Australasia’s biggest markets.
Increasingly, people are losing the “newspaper habit” as customers, particularly the young readers, turn to the internet to satisfy their need for a daily news fix.
Fairfax management has reacted to the downturn in their profits by instituting savage cost-cutting measures, reducing editorial staff and increasingly using “subbing-hubs” to centralise production of their various newspapers.
Last week Australian journalists were stunned when Fairfax announced massive job cuts and a plan to move the sub-editing functions of several titles to New Zealand, where journalists are paid considerably less and are mostly working outside any award structure and without trade union representation.
While it might be good news for some kiwi journos who will work in the new enterprise, it must be bad news, not only for their Australian colleagues, but also for the readers of publications like The Newcastle Herald and The Illawarra Mercury which have been closely identified with the local community in Newcastle and Wollongong respectively.
This week on Media7 we will be speaking with Rick Neville, Chief Operating Officer for Fairfax New Zealand and with Chris Warren, Secretary of the Australian Journalists’ Union the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance, who organized a lightning 36 hour strike of 800 Fairfax journalists to protest the company’s plans.
Russell Brown will also be speaking to Robin Martin, Head of Journalism at Taranaki’s Western Institute of Technology, who reckons that the role of journalistic sub-editors has been devalued to the point where errors of fact and grammar increasingly slip through the net.
It’s a worrying development which, combined with a lack of local knowledge, threatens to turn even more readers away from their daily newspaper.
And the follow-up:
Hi, Rick Neville is in fact Chief Operating Officer, Editor-in-Chief, APN NZ Regional Newspapers – not Fairfax as we have in the billings. Apologies