Staff at Brisbane tabloid The Courier-Mail are anxiously mulling their future after a day of tumult at News Queensland’s Bowen Hills HQ, culminating in a late-night missive from a senior executive outlining how the company plans to remove 35 journalists.

A message sent from managing editor Sue McVay, obtained by Crikey, outlines the specifics of how the division will slash its editorial headcount in the state through an “expression of interest” process.

Crikey understands that between 32 and 35 editorial staff will go from News’ Queensland division, with an additional 10 from the state’s NewsCentral operation. About 30 more will be sought from News’ subbing arms in NSW, Victoria and South Australia as the media giant outsources the checking and re-writing of community and regional newspapers to Pagemasters.

McVey told staff there will be no voluntary redundancies. If not enough EOIs are received, staff will be shoulder tapped on October 9, followed by a seven-day redeployment process where other opportunities within News are considered. “Anyone leaving the business as part of the involuntary process, will do so by Friday October 26,” she wrote.

In a spreadsheet attachment, McVay outlines new and existing rounds emerging under the new setup, including one focusing on “shopping” and another on “pets/animals”. However, she is careful to add that:


It is also suggested that staff submit something called an “e-bio” self-assessment to senior management that will be consulted by executives when deciding who to bone. Crikey revealed two weeks ago that Canberra press gallery staff at The Australian had also been asked to fill in a similar pitch outlining how much they love toiling for Rupert’s loss-making national organ.

While McVay says the e-bio is “NOT mandatory”, it is apparently a “useful tool for you to tell us what your goals, ambitions, aspirations and achievements are”. While staff that fail to submit one won’t end up with a “black mark against their name”, “we cannot consider what you don’t tell us”.

“It’s basically asking you to re-apply for your own job,” one Courier-Mail journo said.

Later in her email, she says that the door to her office — containing a “new box of tissues” — is always open if scribes need a shoulder to cry on. However, the tissues are apparently reserved for her.

Earlier yesterday, Queensland news director David Fagan addressed the frazzled newsroom where he outlined the changes and illustrated their gravity by dropping a 130-page copy of News Limited job ads insert CareerOne from 2006 on the floor with thud. He then let go of a recent edition which floated to the carpet like a feather.

The presentation recalled an incident in 2004 when grocer/Fairfax director Roger Corbett dropped a copy of the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald on the boardroom table and started railing about how he didn’t “ever want anyone coming into this boardroom again … and telling us that people will buy houses or cars, or look for jobs, without this”. Corbett was reacting to a new strategy for Fairfax sketched out by Crikey chairman Eric Beecher.

For remaining Queensland staff , a new “way of operating” will be communicated in coming weeks. Strong hints about the new structure are contained in an update sent yesterday by editorial director Campbell Reid which explains the shift to seven-day rosters and platform agnostic filing around the clock.

States will also transition to a “superdesk” structure — in which senior editors gather round a central loci of power in an echo of Foucault’s carceral culture writ small. In Victoria, graphic artists from community paper group Leader are being brought under NewsCentral.

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance chief Chris Warren says the latest News departures bring to 700 the number of full-time, part-time and casual reporters, subeditors, photographers and administrative staff hived off from both major operations during what observers have dubbed the media’s “winter of discontent”.

“We believe that as many as one in seven journalism jobs in the big newspaper companies have been lost over the winter months — over 300 jobs from News Limited and about 280 jobs from Fairfax Media,” Warren said last night. “That translates to a massive loss of skills, knowledge and expertise. We are seeing many of the great bylines that we have followed in our newspapers leave the profession. The danger is that there is a vacuum to be filled by those who remain, who face massive work intensification and the need to receive proper training to work in integrated, multi-platform digital newsrooms.”

News Limited redundancies have slowly leaked out in stark contrast to the glare of attention fixed on Fairfax, where journalists have been eager to declare their redundancy applications and their disapproval of the rationalisation process that has led to a generation of talent heading for the exit.