June 2012 was a tumultuous month in the Australian media industry. And thanks to secret documents obtained by Crikey, we now know just how tumultuous it was for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
In a move slammed by journalists and hailed by the company’s investors, in June 2012 Fairfax’s CEO rolled up his sleeves and announced a bold cost-cutting plan to cut 1900 staff. Change was also afoot at News Corp. New CEO Kim Williams — a man not from the world of newspapers, who would be ousted by August 2013 — unveiled new cost-cutting plans centred on a “one city, one newsroom” strategy. But unlike his counterpart at Fairfax, Williams didn’t say how many of his company’s staff would be cut as a result.
Courtesy of leaked documents, Crikey can today reveal the News Corp cuts that took place in the year following this address, lifting the veil on the transformation that occurred in the media giant.
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Of 8019 positions that existed across News Corp’s consolidated newspaper divisions on June 30, 2012, only 7032 remained just a year later.
Across the company’s magazine, custom publishing and digital divisions (News.com.au, etc.), a further 131 people were either made redundant or not replaced when they left.
The figures do not distinguish between journalists and other roles, and they don’t show how many staff were made redundant versus how many left or were fired. But the figures do reveal that the cost-cutting at most of News’ outlets was every bit as severe as that announced by Fairfax.
Figures for The Australian are separated out from the state-based bureaux, and the documents show the broadsheet had 54 fewer staff by the end of the year. However, the division also added 52 new faces as part of The Australian’s purchase of the Business Spectator and Eureka Report stable, leaving the headcount more or less the same at around 400 people.
Most other parts of the empire lost significant numbers of staff, with the journalists, production and commercial staff in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia bearing much of the brunt.
At the company’s Melbourne metropolitan division, mainly serviced by the Herald Sun, the headcount went from 670 to 429 — a loss of 241 jobs. Another 201 jobs were lost in the Melbourne suburban newspaper division, effectively halving numbers there. The number of Victorian staff went from 1193 to 723.
In metropolitan Sydney, home of The Daily Telegraph, the headcount went from 501 to 334 — a loss of 167 jobs. And the cuts were savage across the Sydney suburban network of newspapers, which went from employing 536 people to employing just 265 by the end of 2013-13, a loss of more than half the positions. Overall, the number of staff in NSW went from 1037 to 599.
The cuts were severe in Brisbane, where a shocking 295 jobs were lost in just a year, leaving just 368 staff at The Courier-Mail nerve centre. The budgeted headcount was even lower — just 317 positions — so despite the radical reduction in staff local managers didn’t meet pressure to cut further. The Brisbane suburban, Gold Coast, Cairns and Townsville bureaux also faced the axe. Queensland’s total News Corp workforce went from 1309 to 788.
Adelaide’s Advertiser lost 195 staff members — its headcount was 299 by year’s end. Hobart’s Mercury lost 21 staff, shrinking its workforce to 127.
The company’s smaller papers were spared heavy cuts.
In Perth, home of the weekly Sunday Times, local managers were largely insulated from the job-cutting initiative, required to cut only 23 jobs over the year. Perhaps the team was already too small — just 200 by June 2013 — to cut by much. Only 27 jobs were lost – slightly over budget.
The Northern Territory’s NT News division lost just five people over the year – and it was budgeted to make only one position redundant.
The MX group of free, commuter newspapers lost just five staff over the year, going from 64 positions to 59.
In the magazine division, New Life Media lost nearly a quarter of its staff, going from 422 positions to 319 over the year. The custom publishing division was decimated — it lost 16 of its 18 staff members.
The digital side, News.com.au, lost 12 staff over the year — it was squeezed down to 44.
Meanwhile, most of the REA (realestate.com.au) divisions added staff members.
Head office also added 23 jobs — it went from 59 staff to 82, well over the budgeted 62.