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Mar 19, 2009

Fairfax restructure just more jobs for the boys

Fairfax’s long touted reorganization is much ado about nothing: mediocrity rewarded, according to a Fairfax insider.

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Fairfax’s long touted reorganization is much ado about nothing: mediocrity rewarded.

Journos on the editorial floor are incredulous that Fairfax would even bother to put out a statement about the organizational restructure because nothing’s changed.

No one in management lost their jobs despite our share price plummeting to record levels. Underperformers like Whish-Wilson, Churchill and Matthews keep their jobs.

Print and online integration in advertising has already been happening. The big ticket item of editorial integration in print and online hasn’t been addressed.

The only management change of note is that magazines manager (Lisa Hudson) now reports into the SMH and The Age.

It is obvious that the prerequisite for management survival in the new Rural Press (most people realize it is “Fairfax” in name only these days) is slavish adherence to McCarthy’s cost cutting mantra.

The other lesson from these “changes” is that an essential prerequisite for a senior manager at Rural Press is that you must be male. Of McCarthy’s 16 direct reports how many are women?

Like the Exclusive Brethren, Rural Press prefers total male domination at the top echelons of its organisation.

McCarthy had the opportunity to introduce some wide sweeping changes to the leadership team at Fairfax and he squibbed it. Time servers and poor performers at our Sydney and Melbourne mastheads have been rewarded.

All in all, one big yawn. News Ltd has nothing to fear.

This is how Fairfax reported the moves:

Fairfax Media has moved to integrate its print and online motor, employment and real estate classifieds to sell advertising across platforms and bolster its position in the recessionary economy that is hurting revenues.

The closer cooperation between print and online would also be reflected in the editorial side of its newspapers and websites, the company said today, without formally combining the two sides of the business.

The move is part of a long-touted reorganisation of Fairfax into 10 operating units grouped around core functions such as metropolitan, regional and business publishing and online.

It’s the result of a three-month review of the company’s structure under Brian McCarthy, who took over as chief executive in December following the departure of David Kirk.

“The structure provides for improvement in the way print and online work together, both commercially and editorially, for the benefit of our audiences and customers,” he said in a statement today.

A company spokesman said there would be no redundancies resulting from the changes, following a program to cut more than 550 jobs since August.

Under the new structure, Mr McCarthy slightly reduced the number of executives directly reporting to him to 16 and scrapped his own former position of the head of Australian printing and publishing.

The Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun-Herald, metropolitan classifieds for print and online, magazines and the greater Sydney community newspapers will be run by Lloyd Whish-Wilson, until now the chief executive and publisher of Fairfax’s metropolitan publishing in NSW and the ACT.

Melbourne publishing including The Age will be overseen by Don Churchill, until now the publisher in Victoria. Lisa Hudson, the head of Fairfax Magazines, will report to Mr Whish-Wilson and Mr Churchill.

Jack Matthews will continue as head of Fairfax Digital, but now also oversee the New Zealand auction site Trade Me.

Graham Mott remains at the helm of the company’s radio stations and Michael Gill will keep his responsibilities as head of Fairfax Business Media, which includes the Australian Financial Review and its web site and business magazines such as BRW.

Joan Withers, who resigned as chief executive in New Zealand last week, will be replaced after her departure in June by the former Rural Press executive Allen Williams, currently Fairfax’s publisher of community papers in the greater Sydney area and its regional newspapers in the Hunter and Illawarra regions.

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