There’s truth to the statements of Michael Gawenda’s and a fair bit of revisionism in there, too (Crikey, Tuesday item 4, “Beecher: Gawenda’s right, Fairfax ruined by incompetence“).

Did you know that The Age ran Australia’s first online newspaper, one of the first in the world? That idea was spawned by the paper’s librarian (the library will be axed in half after this round of redundancies).

Doubtless a passionate journo, Michael nonetheless to the best of my knowledge never fought for integration of online and print. Never fought for the future of the rivers of gold. Seldom exposed his lack of knowledge of the interactive metaphor by refusing to engage with it. Rarely promoted tech stories in the paper. Never confronted the online editors over their news judgement.

The problem with Fairfax was not Warwick or Hilmer or Dews or Kirk or McCarthy. It was not its inability to grapple with classies moving online or to execute takeovers of gimmes such as Seek when it was buying up big in online toy businesses.

The problem with Fairfax is there’s no culture of innovation. There’s no way those with great ideas can succeed in that business. Ideas are spurned and not captured. There’s no mechanism or process for developing businesses and moving the great ship of those august publications. Senior and middle managers are distrustful, resentful and openly hostile to those with ideas. They view those people and their ideas as threats.

Integrate online and print? The company can’t even integrate its business coverage, view the debacle of the AFR and BusinessDay.

What is going on now is the annual restructure with the baby boomers circling the wagons around their ranks, ensuring jobs for those on the inside while forcing out anyone with a clue.

Peter Fray

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