With Fairfax CEO David Kirk and Chairman Ron Walker
mouthing assurances at the company’s AGM that quality journalism won’t be
compromised by redundancies, journalists at The Age are preparing to vote with
their feet.

The recent expressions of interest period for redunancies
has seen more than 90 journalists asking for estimates of their payout figures.
The rush was so overwhelming that The Age‘s overstretched human resources
department has had to extend the deadline for formal requests for redunancies by
two weeks to process the requests.

Those considering climbing into the
lifeboats and abandoning the sinking Fairfax empire include some of The Age’s
best-known names as well as a surprisingly large number of younger reporters,
who see no future at the paper. It’s expected that management will easily
exceed its redundancy quota of about 25 Age journalists, with more than 30
likely to lodge applications by the December 2 closing date.

Most feel there
is little point in attempting to stay and fight the continuing dumbing
down of The Age by diminuative editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan, who frequently
displays a disturbing ignorance of the content of his own publication. He often
asks senior editors why certain issues weren’t covered in that day’s edition,
only to be told they were.

On most days he is more interested in what is in The
than in The Age. Helping to drive the rush towards the door by
journalists is Jaspan’s recent signalling to Sunday Age staff that he intends to
get more involved in that newspaper. Former Sunday Age editor Alan Oakley
was able to keep Jaspan at arms length – and increase the circulation – thanks
to his close ties to Sydney executives Allan Revell and Mark Scott.

But after
Oakley’s departure to TheSydney Morning Herald, Jaspan was quick to assert his
authority and put himself in charge of the process of selecting the new Sunday
editor. He and Age managing director Don Churchill have started conducting
interviews with the dozen or so applicants. Word is that only one of those is
from the Fairfax operation in Sydney, and Jaspan is determined that candidate
won’t succeed.