Where was Michael Stutchbury, the editor-in-chief of The Australian Financial Review, when the paper’s redundancies were revealed late last week? In the toughest week for the paper since the last round of sackings in 2011, the boss was in Israel on a junket.
As an AFR insider points out, his absence was a bad look — yet somehow appropriate given that Stutchbury and former AFR Group CEO Brett Clegg paid so much money to poach former workmates from The Australian, which partly explains the Fin‘s present financial difficulties.
The AFR‘s growing financial problems can be blamed on falling sales, the internet, different ways of trading for sharemarket investors — and the huge rise in staffing costs that occurred under Clegg and Stutchbury. Clegg, of course, wasn’t around, either; he had already fled back to the bosom of News Corp when the going got tough at Fairfax Business Media.
“This is the legacy of Clegg and Stuchbury’s insane bidding war with The Oz that lined the pockets of a chosen few but has forced long-term solid reporters and editors out the door, as well as a host of promising younger reporters,” a Fairfax insider said. “The AFR preaches fiscal restraint and cost controls in its editorials but can’t manage its own house.”
Among those going are:
Markets and companies editor and Financial Review Sunday star Nabila Ahmed, off to do her own thing in New York.
Weekend editor Chris Short, a former features editor and chief sub.
Judith Hoare, deputy editor (features) and one of the best editors on the paper.
Australian Financial Review Magazine editor Jeni Porter, off to Europe. This is a big loss given the magazine is going gangbusters financially and is said to be smashing its advertising targets. Not many print mags can boast that.
Banking writer/editor Andrew Cornell and banking reporter George Liondis. Investment banking reporter Stephen Shore is going to London for a hedge fund job. This comes as Treasurer Joe Hockey’s financial inquiry is about to get underway.
Young mining reporter Michael Hobbs threw in the towel to join the Commonwealth Bank in PR role. Also leaving is fellow mining reporter Luke Forrestal, meaning the AFR is bereft of writers who understand hard rock mining. Peter Ker from the SMH/Age will help fill this huge gap. Oil and gas reporter Angela Macdonald Smith remains.
Industrial relations reporter Mark Skulley. One can only imagine what he made of Stutchbury’s aggressive anti-union stance.
Markets editor Peter Wells is leaving, and the loss will be felt. It is one of the AFR‘s strengths, now a big weakness.
Opinion editor Emma Connors and features editor Alison Kahler.
Reporter Jason Murphy, former federal Treasury economist. Sophie Morris from the Canberra Bureau is going as well.
But not everyone wanted a redundancy got one. Veteran Geoff Kitney was again knocked back for a redundancy. So was Pam Williams after an intervention by CEO Greg Hywood, as Crikey reported on Friday.
“It’s a total clear out — everyone is rushing for the exits,” another AFR insider said.
Economics editor Alan Mitchell was reported by The Oz this morning as another possible departure.
Finally, the word is that management have considered shutting down the weekend paper, which is bleeding money. Does that help explain why Chris Short and Judith Hoare quit — could they see the writing on the wall?