While Kiwi papers The Dominion Post and The Press continue to mop up the mess after publishing the Muhammad cartoons, their Fairfax stablemates The Age and The SMH have made it clear they won’t be touching the caricatures with a ten foot pole.

Both papers have devoted today’s editorials to explaining why they won’t be publishing the offending cartoons. While The Age
says its decision “reflects a long commitment to good intercommunal
relationships, which is the bedrock of Victoria’s multicultural success
story,” the SMH mulls over “the knife-edge between satire and insult”:

Gauging potential audience reaction is no longer just a
matter of understanding the local community a media organisation
serves. Instant global communication means inflammatory news whips its
way around the world so fast that reason can be left languishing on the
blocks, long after the angry mobs have taken to the streets…

Crikey today asked Fairfax CEO and former New Zealand All Black rugby
captain David Kirk why Fairfax’s NZ papers published the offensive
material when their Australian cousins seem so reticent: “I support the
judgements of the editors,” said Kirk. “At different times and
different places editors arrive at different decisions, both for good
reasons, we trust our editors to make those calls…”

Maybe Kirk’s concentration is focused elsewhere – as this item in the SMH’s XChange column today reports:

John Fairfax Holdings chief executive David Kirk has reportedly raised
the prospect of further savings at the newspaper publisher in a meeting
with analysts, Citigroup says.

“The issue of the recent Sydney Morning Herald/Age
editorial redundancy programs (and specifically whether departing staff
exceeded Fairfax’s target mix of seniority versus productivity) was not
discussed, but CEO Kirk made it clear that Fairfax intended to ‘up the
intensity’ on this issue, and that editors have been given very clear
mandates in this respect,” Citigroup analysts George Colman and Brian
Han wrote of their meeting with Kirk.

Kirk also suggested Fairfax might buy regional titles to reduce its
reliance on advertising in metropolitan areas, the analysts said,
citing “a willingness to consider both small and large-scale print
acquisitions in Australia and New Zealand with a regional bent.”

Citi rates Fairfax a sell.