Some of the first journalists affected by News Limited’s national newspaper restructure say they feel “like mushrooms” because they have not been told how the changes will affect them.
Adelaide’s Advertiser and Sunday Mail are the first metropolitan newspapers to switch to a seven-day newsroom but there is confusion within the papers about how the changes will be implemented.
“We’re not being told anything,” said one insider. “It really galls me that they have so little respect for us that they’re leaving us out of the loop.”
Under a seven-day newsroom roster, reporters will work across the weekly and Sunday mastheads and will no longer be dedicated to one paper or the other.
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Adelaide is considered the “guinea pig” because it is the first of News Limited’s Australian markets to roll out the changes.
However, staff members across the country say the new roster is the latest cost-cutting measure following other schemes, such as the consolidation of subeditors in a “hub”, known as “News Central”.
“They wouldn’t be doing a seven-day roster if there weren’t ways of making money from it,” said one News insider.
“In a vacuum like this there are plenty of rumours about job cuts,” said another reporter who told Crikey that insiders predict 30 jobs will go under the restructure.
In an internal memo to staff last week, News management described the changes as a “realignment” and as “a first step in transforming our business and having a more effective and efficient operating model within editorial.”
The memo, which included several “frequently asked questions”, was designed to allay staff concerns about the changes. Instead it revealed how little planning has occurred.
“As we are still in the early stages of planning and designing, we are not able to say what this operating model will look like and the impacts on our team. We will continue to communicate with you as we have information to share.”
The memo did, however, allude to likely job cuts.
“As with any transformation, in moving to the 7-day news room this will mean a restructure and a streamlining of processes. Subsequently, this will mean impacts on roles and a change in role requirements.”
On the question of whether reporters will be forced to change their work days, the memo made reference to the recent consolidation of subeditors at News Central.
“There may be occasions when this will be required. As we did with the News Central changes, we will be sympathetic to the needs of our staff.”
“Now the big joke is they weren’t sympathetic about people’s personal circumstances at all in the News Central changes,” an insider said.
The changes have been driven by News CEO Kim Williams, who last week announced several key staff appointments in Adelaide and elsewhere.
The Advertiser’s former editor, Melvin Mansell, became editorial director for South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, giving him oversight of the all the Adelaide papers, as well as Perth’s Sunday Times and Darwin’s NT News.
Replacing him at The Advertiser is Sam Weir, the former editor of The Sunday Times in Perth.
According to the memo, Adelaide has a key role in the national restructure.
“We are leading the way and will be able to show our peers the success of this new model.”