Fairfax is swinging the redundancy axe in South Australia, where 22 editorial positions will be made redundant across its regional newsrooms as part of the company’s NewsNow rollout, a new operating model that has regional journalists assuming many of the responsibilities traditionally performed by photographers, subeditors and editors. A total of 35 full-time positions are set to go.

The rollouts began in parts of regional New South Wales and have since come to Victoria. South Australia doesn’t have many Fairfax papers — 22 across the state, with most being weekly or biweeklies — so the rollout could involve fewer total job losses than in Victoria or New South Wales, the major hubs of Fairfax’s Australian Community Media empire.

As Crikey hit deadline, staff remained in meetings about the new structure. They’ve all been driven to major centres like Port Augusta, where they’ll be told by videolink where the major job losses will occur.

Staff Crikey spoke to were very concerned about the announcement. They’ve been waiting to hear what the results will mean for jobs since management turned to HR to help ease the transition last year. A few months ago, staff at the South Australian regional publications sat in on professional development seminars designed to prepare them to deal with change in the workplace.

According to a Fairfax statement published as Crikey neared deadline, 35 full-time positions will be cut, of which 22 will be in editorial. The publications affected will be the Stock Journal, the Port Lincoln Times, Whyalla News, The Transcontinental at Port Augusta, The Times at Victor Harbor, the Murray Valley Standard, Barossa and Light Herald, Northern Argus, The Recorder at Port Pirie, On the Coast, The Naracoorte Herald,  The Islander, The Flinders News, Border Chronicle, Coastal Leader, Eyre Peninsula Tribune,  West Coast Sentinel and the Roxby Downs Sun.

As part of the restructure, the Whyalla News will move from a biweekly to a weekly, while free weekly title the Roxby Downs Sun will be discontinued.

Fairfax began rolling out NewsNow in August last year, when the company began trialing a system in regional New South Wales under which reporters operate entirely without subeditors and with very few photographers. The system has been refined slightly with every subsequent rollout, buts it core remains the same. The name NewsNow is a reference to the removal of delayed publication. Under the system, reporters write their articles directly into blank space in a newspaper. The benefit of this system is that the layout can be replicated across many papers in the same region, with ad sales teams placing ads that reporters at different locations then write around. The work is put up online immediately, and does not receive the careful attention delayed publication helps ensure.

It’s expected that Fairfax will soon announce the NewsNow model in the rest of New South Wales and Tasmania.

Peter Fray

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