The Age outsources sports subbing. The Age is preparing to offload its daily and Sunday sports results and racing form guide to sub-editing conglomerate Pagemasters at the conclusion of the AFL season, as part of a relentless cost-cutting drive on the paper.

Fairfax insiders say that senior management informed staff verbally two months ago that in about “six weeks” time the paper’s popular sports results and Saturday form guide will make a permanent move to the Melbourne Pagemasters office, after executives received an offer that was “too good to refuse”. The deal was confirmed by Pagemasters racing overseer Steve Davison this morning with the firm expected to produce 10-12 pages per week.

Crikey understands the change will mean three casual staff members will have their employment terminated and that two full-timers will be redeployed, although a source said this morning The Age‘s well-regarded veteran results chief might be forced into a premature retirement. The deal is said to be worth about $49,000 a year, a fraction of what The Age currently pays out in subbing salaries for the section.

Insiders say the changes have been in the pipeline for 12-18 months but that the paper initially said it wanted to keep control over the pages. Davison confirmed to Crikey that Fairfax had been mulling the deal for a while but in the past few months management started to “look at it more closely”. The change comes on top of The Age‘s decision to dump its 40-page Friday racing form guide in 2008, which was moved online before being shelved completely.

Pagemasters is owned by Australian Associated Press, which in turn is owned by a consortium of Australian media companies dominated by Fairfax and News Limited. The outfit currently handles racing results the racing guide for the Herald Sun and a host of other newspapers across Australia. It also provides subbing services for the UK Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph and edits a large proportion of the New Zealand Herald. Last year, it announced the addition of a North American outpost to edit news pages and features from The Toronto Star.

The company was founded in 1991 and claims to be “leading the world in the establishment and operation of centralised sub-editing centres for the newspaper and magazine industry”. It is one of the few old media assets to prosper as newspapers continue to cut back on exclusive content. The latest step forms part of a steady decentralisation of production services from Fairfax’s Melbourne outpost. Last year, the layout and sub-editing of supplements including Money, Traveller, Drive and My Career were all assumed by Pagemasters. A large part of the feature work at The Sydney Morning Herald has also been transferred and a dedicated Fairfax “sub-hub” operates out of Pagemasters’ Brisbane HQ. — Andrew Crook

The sheep at the Courier Mail. Wikipedia rightly lists David Fagan as the editor of The Courier Mail (though technically he’s the editor-in-chief; he stepped up recently to allow Scott Thompson to take the day-to-day reins). But the profile of Fagan it links to is a little misleading. Apparently Fagan is a “New Zealand sheep shearer who has won the New Zealand Golden Shears contest a record 16 times. Setting 10 world records and winning five world, six world team, 16 national titles makes him New Zealand’s most successful competition sheep shearer.” — Jason Whittaker

New Yahoo! news blog launched

The Upshot, a news blog from Yahoo! News, officially launched Tuesday, and it will combine original reporting, insights, and analysis with items from other sources.” — WebNewser

Economist photoshops Obama cover

“The magazine used a May 28 photo of Obama on a Louisiana beach with Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen and local parish president Charlotte Randolph. For its cover image, however, The Economist showed only Obama, looking every bit the lonely president with his head down on the beach confronting his crisis.” — Huffington Post

Hastings inks book deal

“War in Afghanistan watchers haven’t heard the last of Michael Hastings, whose recent article in Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” led to the end of General Stanley McChrystal’s command. Today, Little, Brown & Co announced that it has acquired and will publish a forthcoming book by Hastings on the war.” — Huffington Post

Newspapers preferred over paywalls

“Almost two-thirds of people are happy to pay for quality journalism but not online, according to a YouGov survey.” — NewMediaAge

New ed for Cleo

“Gemma Crisp has been named by ACP as the new editor of Cleo magazine … Sarah Oakes is leaving Cleo to take the helm of Fairfax Media’s Sunday Life magazine.” — Mumbrella

Peter Fray

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