“We will never slash the journalism,” News Limited CEO John Hartigan told the audience at last Thursday’s Walkley Awards — and was cheered in return by an audience enjoying every jibe aimed at Fairfax.

But is it true? Hartigan acknowledged that”“we will have to cut our cloth”, and now some details are emerging of exactly what that means.

The truth is that redundancies are being offered at The Australian, and will be coming soon to other News Limited publications.

Rather than being publically announced, management is going softly-softly, approaching particular individuals with an offer of a package.

Richard Harris of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance says those approached tend to be towards the end of their career, and there has been no compulsion and no pressure.

And in a continuation of the extraordinary world view in which News Limited has become cuddlier than Fairfax, Harris says: “We prefer this to the way Fairfax has done it. Mass redundancy programs are very unsettling.”

There are rumours that redundancies are on offer at the Herald-Sun and the Daily Telegraph as well, but I have not yet found a confirmed case, and the Alliance isn’t aware of any either.

But editors of News Limited’s publications have had it made clear to them that redundancies are certainly coming. One editor told me the word was: “When they start happening it won’t be a call out to everyone — more like a tap on the shoulder for a few particular staff members.”

Elsewhere in News Limited, the cost cutting is already on. At community newspaper level the already skeletal journalistic staff is shrinking, with those who leave not being replaced.

Meanwhile, as reported by The Australian on Monday staff at Cumberland Newspapers, News Limited’s Sydney suburban group, are being softly encouraged to go part time.

As well The Australian reports that the launch of the fashion magazine Glamour has been put on hold due to the economic downturn, meaning about 15 editorial, advertising and marketing staff are left swinging, with the company trying to find them jobs within the group. Good luck with that.

To give Hartigan a break, given the state of the economy and the industry, redundancies are almost inevitable.

It is a case of when, not if, as the business model that has supported journalists all these years not-so-slowly collapses.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey