Friday’s annual meeting saw a moderate amount of heat about the planned voluntary retrenchment program at Fairfax, but no real rationale from the board, especially chairman Ron Walker and new CEO David Kirk.
Walker distinguished himself at the AGM when he confessed that he had recently discovered how the journalists live and work at Fairfax by leaving the Stephen Mulholland inspired luxurious executive suite and walking about on the editorial floors.
Around 65 to 70 journalists will be going in the redundancy scheme, with more queuing to leave. These jobs are coming from the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, their Sunday editions and the various magazines. The photographic department is going to be cut by 25%, with editor-in-chief Mark Scott telling journalists that pictures could be bought from AP or AAP (Fairfax will not buy from Getty Images because of the high cost of photos).
But one question puzzling outsiders is why there are no retrenchments at the Financial Review? Here’s what David Kirk told Business Sunday: “Because AFR, over time, has continued to manage its head count and the way it manages its business processes such that that business has pretty much got the right balance of staff and to the revenue and the revenue outlook that we can see going forward.”
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Business publisher Michael Gill has already put the cleaners through his business magazines, shutting Shares and Personal Investment, and consolidating them into a new magazine, Smart Investor, released on Friday. But there will be no retrenchments at AFR – and apparently we have Mark Scott to thank for that.
Fairfax journalists say that in a meeting of SMH editorial employers Scott was asked about staff cuts at the AFR. His reply was that Fairfax Business Media, especially AFR, already has such high staff turnover that the cuts can be achieved from attrition and not filling jobs after they are vacated. When will we read about it in AFR management magazine, Boss?