FAIRFAX NEWSROOMS ROCKED AS JOURNOS WALK OUT
17 March 2016, Written by Nick Nichols
FAIRFAX Media newsrooms in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra were rocked today by an angry walkout of journalists in protest at the latest round of job cuts by the newspaper publisher.
The journalists have stopped work until Monday following a series of meetings in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra where journalists vented their frustration over facing another series of redundancies since the last round two years ago.
Fairfax announced to staff today that 120 jobs would go from its editorial department. This comes on the heels of the sacking of 70 staff in 2014, a move that also led a mass walkout by journalists for 24 hours.
Fairfax Media does not specify how many journalists are involved in the latest strike action, but says all mastheads will be published as usual.
It will only say that 'some journalists' from The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times, the Brisbane Times and The Australian Financial Review are 'taking unprotected industrial action relating to an announcement to staff today'.
The company says it will continue to publish across print and digital platforms as usual despite the walkout.
"We are operating in an ever-changing highly competitive media environment which involves rapid evolution of our publishing model," says Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood in a statement.
"The initiatives we have proposed today are part of that adaptation and are necessary to sustain high quality journalism."
Fairfax says the job cuts are aimed at reducing costs across its news and business divisions in Sydney and Melbourne.
The process involves 'a combination of redundancies, tightening contributor budgets and reducing travel costs and expenses'.
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance CEO Paul Murphy has described the planned job cuts by Fairfax as 'a body blow'.
"It's the staff on the newsroom floor who have driven the transition to digital and through all the challenges continued to produce high quality independent journalism; and this is the reward," he says.
"Yet another savage cut to editorial. We will be fighting."
Tweets from journalists involved in today's walkout have revealed an overwhelming sense of anger at the planned job cuts.
Sydney Morning Herald journalist Brad Walter has urged the general public to support the strike by neither buying Fairfax newspapers nor clicking onto the company's news sites.
Reporter Rachel Olding tweeted: "Please know we're fighting for the value of this amazing newsroom."
Journalists voted by a strong majority to walk off the job today after meetings were held in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. This involved 120 journalists at The Sydney Morning Herald alone.
The walkout comes on the day Fairfax closed down its Business Review Weekly website, integrating the masthead into the Australian Financial Review's new Leadership section under the Entrepreneur subcategory.
The move now places BRW behind the Australian Financial Review's paywall and comes less than three years after the media giant ceased the print version of the magazine, publisher of the BRW Rich List.
Fairfax last month revealed further falls in advertising revenue from its print publications in the latest half year.
The company posted a 2.2 per cent fall in interim net profit for the December half to $79.8 million, even though revenue and EBITDA rose strongly across its metropolitan media division.
This was largely driven by Fairfax assuming full control of Metro Media Publishing and a lift in Domain's revenue.
The company's profit soft spots are the Australian Community Media division, as well as its New Zealand operations. It is currently implementing a $60 million a year cutback in costs in the Community Media business.
Author: Nick Nichols