Photographers are the next victims of Fairfax’s cost-cutting: the majority will soon disappear from newsrooms.
From a pool of 40 photographers, Fairfax will attempt to push 30 out the door through redundancy. Allen Williams, the company’s managing director of Australian Publishing Media, announced the cuts to staff this morning. More subeditors will also go.
The email — obtained by Crikey — came as staff were hauled into meetings to discuss the changes. In total, 78 redundancies are expected.
A total of 10 photographers and another 10 photo desk staff will remain after 30 full-time positions are axed, with photographic needs at The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times to be met by the Getty agency. Williams wrote:
“Our photographic needs across all platforms continue to be commissioned by editorial however most assignments will be facilitated by Getty photographers for our publications. Fairfax retains the copyright in the photos and they will be for Fairfax’s exclusive use. The changes we are proposing are similar to the more progressive and efficient models being used by other media organisations around the world.”
Far fewer freelancers and casual contributors will be used by Fairfax as a result, Williams said.
Also affected are subeditors — the company is proposing to reduce its production workforce by 35 positions in Sydney and Melbourne by December. That will leave just 33 production staff handling digital and print for the three metropolitan titles and Fairfax’s magazine division.
Another 15 jobs will come from Life Media, which publishes Daily Life, Good Food, Essential Baby and The Vine. The “restructure”, Williams wrote, will make “greater use of contributors to deliver editorial content”.
As Crikey hit deadline, Fairfax was in the process of holding meetings with those affected. Senior Age journalist Miki Perkins has been live-tweeting the meeting with Age staff, and reports that Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden admitted the cuts have been planned for “some time”. He nonetheless assured journalists that “no one touches this newsroom”.
Crikey understands staff were blindsided by this morning’s announcement, including the photographers, who currently work closely with journalists in preparing stories.
The last large round of redundancies for Fairfax came in 2012, when it cut 1900 staff.
Fairfax posted improved profits in February, with underlying profits up 12%. Many had hoped the cuts were behind them. In February, chief executive Greg Hywood said the company “continues to identify further opportunities for operational cost savings”.
In a statement, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance federal secretary Chris Warren said the cuts would erode the ability of staff to do their jobs:
“Fairfax seems incapable of deciding on new production arrangements and sticking with them. The only decision the company seems capable of making is to keep cutting staff.
“When do we reach the point of no return? Why isn’t more effort being made to protect and promote editorial quality and utilise smarter ways of working? At what point does Fairfax stop being a news organisation and merely become a commissioning agency that outsources everything it does?”
A MEAA spokesman told Crikey the union only heard about the redundancies this morning. “People are genuinely shocked by what’s occurred,” he said. “This is a huge slab of the workforce.”