The axe swung low at The Age last night, where numerous subeditors were tapped on the shoulder and told their time at the company was up.
As the clock struck 5 at Fairfax’s Media House HQ, editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge got dialling on his office phone to dispense the bad news.
Thirty-eight “full time equivalent” staff will go from the paper — part of the deal to outsource subbing to controversial outfit Pagemasters and save $15 million annually — with the actual headcount soaring well past 50 when casuals, artists and designers are factored in.
Just 22 page editors and about four story editors will be retained in a limp bid to ensure the paper’s severely compromised copy can avoid becoming a laughing stock.
“This is the end of an age,” eight-year subeditorial veteran Terri Jacobs told Crikey this morning, after getting the bad news from Ramadge at 5.03pm yesterday.
Jacobs said she was “shocked” when Ramadge stated that while her layout skills were top notch, there were apparently a few “issues” with word craft (other Age subeditorial staff consulted this morning dismissed that suggestion as “total rubbish”).
Ironically, Ramadge then told Jacobs he would “guarantee her an interview” with Pagemasters, which will take on the bulk of the paper’s subbing load, before reminding her she still had until June 14 to “volunteer” for a redundancy.
Jacobs, who has been a vocal opponent in the media of the Fairfax sack plan following its announcement last month, branded the exchange “ridiculous” and was immediately on the phone to the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance to register her dissent.
“I’m shocked by the way this was handled,” she added, suggesting many of the staff laid off would be women. “This is a new low for Fairfax and for journalism in general.”
Just minutes after the bad news began to circulate last night, staff became irate after a message from CEO Greg Hywood appeared announcing the winners of the staff iPad app competition:
Congratulations to the winners of our iPad app launch competition
They both take home a 64GB iPad2.
And it seems the anti-Hywood campaign is spreading far and wide. On Wednesday, the bolshy NSW upper house — which again sprung to life last night with a round of filibustering over Barry O’Farrell’s plan to freeze public service wages — weighed in with a motion calling on the unpopular chief to reverse the outsourcing plan at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Greens MLC John Kaye said: “Cost cutting will triumph over quality and accuracy. Specialist expertise will be lost and public confidence in the papers will diminish.”
Paul Ramadge told Crikey early this afternoon he was in a meeting and declined to comment on the record.