Fairfax to strike? Fairfax staff have not ruled out rolling industrial action to shut down The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald after Greg Hywood’s botched announcement yesterday that he will proceed with plans to sack 82 subeditors and huge numbers of designers and artists. Five hundred fired-up scribes attended crisis stopwork meetings in Melbourne and Sydney last night to reject the layoffs, which will save Fairfax the paltry sum of $15 million a year.

Journos passed a damning resolution in strikingly similar language to Michael Bachelard’s quotes sent to Crikey yesterday, condemning the decision to send subbing on the company’s four major metropolitan mastheads to AAP-subsidiary Pagemasters:

“The staff of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald, The Age and The Sunday Age are appalled at today’s decision by Fairfax to axe 82 subeditors, designers and artists from our newspapers.

“To argue that the removal of copy editors and an unknown number of artists and designers will increase quality journalism is an insult and it will convince no one.

“It is also insulting that the company refused viable alternatives put in good faith by a committee of senior production staff from both mastheads over the past five days.

“We have no confidence that the half-News Limited-owned Pagemasters will have the skills, the speed or the cultural understanding to maintain the level of quality that we and our readers expect from newspapers with the proud traditions of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“We resolve to fight this decision through a robust public campaign until such time as the company sees sense.”

In a statement released last night, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance federal president Chris Warren also slammed the plan, which coincides with the latest round of Fairfax EBA negotiations. Subeditors, especially in Melbourne, are among the most heavily unionised element of Fairfax’s trans-Tasman operation: “I would hope that people who love these newspapers will voice their dismay at what can only be described as a disastrous plan to gut these two high-quality mastheads. We resolve to do everything we can to reverse this short-sighted decision,” said Warren.

The PR debacle yesterday, in which journalists received a marked-up draft document confirming the sack-attack complete with subedits from spin doctor Sue Cato, has added fuel to the fire. Cato is believed to be paid about $450 an hour for her services by Fairfax — strange for a media company where that kind of expertise might be expected to be sourced internally.

Meanwhile, Brisbane-based Pagemasters editor Peter Atkinson and former Business Spectator night editor Peter Krien continue to conduct interviews for the new roles with paycuts of over 40% in the offing for senior subs who decide to make the shift. — Andrew Crook

Did Fairfax get the numbers wrong? Fairfax have denied they got their numbers wrong in yesterday’s announcement that subbing operations would be outsourced to Pagemasters, after media watcher Bronwyn Clune suggested there was some serious disparities in the amount of pages the company say need to be subbed. According to Clune, Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood’s announcement was based on figures suggesting 900 first edition pages would need to be subbed across The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. “The reality is last week 1400 pages were subbed when all editions were counted, with about 1200 being a good average for most weeks,” she wrote.

Fairfax told Crikey’s Margaret Simons this morning that any disparity in the numbers is a furphy. “We know exactly what we are talking about when it comes to numbers of pages,” the company said.

Meanwhile, at Fairfax Metropolitan Media. As we go to press, an email from Metropolitan Media CEO Jack Matthews announcing key staff appointments has lobbed in Crikey’s inbox. Amongst others, Glen Burge, former editor of the Fin Review, has been appointed Director of Editorial Planning and Process. Matthews says further announcements will be forthcoming (you can read the full email here).

“The Metro division is going through a significant period of change.  A highly visible element of that change is the investment in journalism and the refocusing of resources from some production and process-related tasks onto creative and quality journalism and content creation.  It’s important to reiterate that this re-allocation from production activities to creative ones will be across the entire business.  Much of our current focus is on development sustainable plans to meet that strategic objective.

“One of the most significant areas of activity has been in identifying key people to lead the different areas of Metro and to develop organisational structures to support our plans.  Today I would like to announce a number of key appointments.”

Angry Planet: staff upset on cuts. Lonely Planet insiders have reacted angrily to the confirmation yesterday that 60 to 70 staff — including many veterans — would be sacked from its Maribyrnong headquarters, blaming the decision on a lack of strategic direction from management. They say an executive clique, led by former Dow Jones executive Matt Goldberg, is loathed internally and that there is no real plans to make digital side of the business work. The company announced yesterday that digital operations would be shifted to London.

In a statement yesterday, Goldberg said the high Australian dollar was to blame for the decision, which he claimed had hacked $13 million from revenue. But insiders say that explanation betrays a lack of vision and management nous. While $10 million has been spent on the LP website, moles report that it doesn’t make any money. And although digital city guide download numbers seem impressive, most of those are made up of free giveaways.

Staff say that after founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler sold their remaining 25% in Lonely Planet in February, as revealed by Crikey, the firm had exclusively “become an vehicle for ambition and egos like any other company”. The move was foreshadowed a year ago, when eight website writers were sacked, prompting staff to drown their sorrows at a local watering hole cynically re-named The Redundancy. At the time, the company minimised the importance of the sackings, saying it was committed to keeping the digital team housed locally.

The insider was damning at the situation inside the publisher, which once upheld the best traditions of a big family: “The irony is that BBC Worldwide has good cultural values that fit for Lonely Planet, but the firm just wants it to make money, which it doesn’t. This is a sad case of a once powerful brand in decline.” — Andrew Crook

A late entry for Behrendt beat-ups. Just when you think they’ve finally exhausted a franchise, you hear that The Fast and The Furious 6 is in production. In that spirit, The Australian returned to its beat-up of Larissa Behrendt this week, smarting from the widespread accusation that spending thousands of words on a stray tweet was an indication that they couldn’t win the battle of ideas on aboriginal futures — and vaguely aware they’d score an own goal, credibility-wise. CIS shill Sara Hudson came to the rescue with a link between tweet and thought, via psychobabble:

“Behrendt may have responded so vehemently to [Bess] Price because she is frustrated her human-rights agenda has been sidelined by bipartisan support for welfare quarantining and alcohol restrictions.”

Jaysus. Save it for Oprah. For the Centre for Independent Studies to lend their imprimatur to such nonsense is pathetic. Hudson’s explanation for her late entree to the beat-up? She was overseas, and on her return, found “20 articles in my inbox”. Yes, of course, no doubt — and how convenient. Perhaps the CIS workie could show the masters of the universe how to set up email forwarding, and they can come storming into the 1990s. — Guy Rundle

Some comments suck. Let’s move on. We appear to be in a period of comment-gotcha again. Ever since news went online and remarks that used to be made in a pub took a permanent form in comments thread, the attitude has swung from one extreme to the other. One period starts when someone trawls their enemy’s threads, finds snarky comments that the moderator/intern missed, and then screams blue murder, decline of civilisation, end of etc, etc. Then there’s payback, and on it goes, until everyone realises that it is taking up all their time, and by comment consent no-one is responsible for lunatic X or Y, until someone harvests more snark, and around we go again.

So, in that spirit, after some fuss from a certain direction about a distasteful remark on a Crikey thread, here’s something that was appended to an article by the Bolter on his blog (actually an excerpt of another article):

As a conservative, I am often revolted by the Left.

As a Jew, I am serially revolted by Loewenstein. He is of the Left and a token self hating Jew who uses his Jewish ethnicity to promote antisemitic blood libels against Israel.

My disgust at loewenstein is so deep, his criminal lies so brazen, that I had better leave my comments at the single observation that G-d will deal with loewenstein in His own way.  If I were G-d I’d send in another team of SEALS.

I cannot see any moral partition between bin liner and the Leftist apologists for him in the article. None.  They are all crawling in the same pool of moral and ethical slime.

Terry of LaborfreeNSW (Reply)
Tue 10 May 11 (08:25am)

OK ready for the outrage? Here we go: “Clearly by letting this comment through, the entire News Limited organisation from Canada to New Zealand endorses the idea that dissident journalists are the moral equivalent of Osama bin Laden and deserve to be killed in the same manner — an example of the moral degeneracy of the right … failure of basic decency… Die Sturmer … Hitler was a non-smoker … vamp till ready.”

OK, square now? Can we all go back to work? — Guy Rundle

Here’s the news — online readers like to be surprised

“Research by a journalism academic, Neil Thurman, shows a disconnect between the growth of personalised news services in Britain and US, and reader response. There is a reluctance among users to customise news websites.” — The Guardian

Facebook busted in clumsy smear on Google

“The social network secretly hired a PR firm to plant negative stories about the search giant, The Daily Beast‘s Dan Lyons reveals — a caper that is blowing up in their face, and escalating their war.” — The Daily Beast

Facebook partners with Web Of Trust to warn on nasty links

“Because Facebook is clearly concerned with user privacy, it’s partnered up with crowdsourced reputation management service Web Of Trust today in order give its population of almost 700 million users protection from links deemed “risky” by the Web Of Trust community. As of today, if a user clicks on a link with a poor Web of Trust reputation rating, they will see the above warning telling them that the link has been classified as abusive. And then they can either circumvent the link, learn more about the Web of Trust rating or continue browsing.” — TechCrunch

Google to launch Chrome laptops this summer

“Google said the laptops, dubbed “Chromebooks,” will be available to purchase on June 15, and plans to ship the computers to seven countries. Customers will be able to purchase Chromebooks through Amazon.com Inc. and Best Buy Co.” — MarketWatch

Peter Fray

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