The recent eruption of childish corporate bickering has finally convinced me that something needs to be done to bring some sanity and improved corporate governance to the Fairfax Media board.
I have a 30-year background in journalism, mostly spent at the Fairfax papers, The Australian Financial Review and the Sydney Morning Herald. I was editor of the AFR for five years between Australia’s last great boom and bust of the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Quality journalism matters. It has been the hallmark of the Fairfax (and David Syme) mastheads for 175 years. But a casual observer would have difficulty knowing that, if they looked at the board composition and some of the ham-fisted decisions it has taken over recent decades.
With quality journalism under deep stress — courtesy of technological change that has undermined the business model on which Fairfax’s particular brand of quality rests — the last thing the company needs is the latest display of corporate madness, more reminiscent of testosterone-fuelled activity of ageing bulls in the bottom paddock.
I believe I can be a safe candidate, running independently, with no ties to any particular group on the board.
Aside from my background in general and financial journalism, I have been involved in the corporate world as long-serving chair of industry superannuation fund Media Super. When I was first chair, we managed $6 million in journalist super assets. It is now a fund with assets of $2.4 billion covering 110,000 journalists, printers, actors and workers in the entertainment industry.
I’m on the board of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which is dedicated to improving corporate governance in Australian-listed companies. I believe I have the business acumen to undertake a role on the Fairfax Media board and I have a deep understanding of shareholder and stakeholder needs.
I’m also a strong supporter of the Media Alliance, the organisation that represents journalists in their professional and industrial roles and that works hard to ensure adherence to a code of ethics.
I can tread a neutral path and can work with all parties, and bring an intimate knowledge to board deliberations of the one “product” the company sells — quality journalism — but which is entirely unrepresented on the board. In 2007, I won the Walkley Award for the most outstanding contribution to journalism.
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As a long-standing Fairfax employee and editor, I understand the company, its audience and its customers; I’m hands-on, with real world and media experience in a rapidly changing media environment.