There have been rumours of a looming redundancy round at News Corp for some weeks, but the first concrete sign came in emails selected journalists were sent over the weekend telling them they’d be needed in meetings on Monday.
The Australian‘s media section yesterday revealed that the company was taking the axe to 55 editorial positions “in the coming week”, and Crikey understands at least a handful of journalists have already been told they’ll be given a redundancy. More will no doubt become clear about who’s going in coming days.
Staff have been told most of the job losses at The Australian will be in production, which includes positions like subeditors. It is speculated many of the job losses will be in the tabloids, which have become markedly less profitable in recent months as ad revenue fell, particularly in the first half of this financial year. It’s not yet clear even to many at the tabloids who is going, though emotions are running high. Herald Sun journalist Padraic Murphy on Facebook lambasted SBS Comedy for a satirical article, since widely criticised, that made light of the redundancies by suggesting News Corp staffers could now get jobs as “actual journalist[s]”. “I’m a news journo who is facing job loss, and I’d prefer if my taxes were not used to celebrate my demise,” he wrote in response to the article. “Grow up.” It’s understood several Herald Sun journalists have been made redundant.
Several journalists are leaving the Business Spectator stable, including Biz Spec economics editor Callam Pickering and Climate Spectator editor Tristan Edis. Edis has run Climate Spectator more or less on his own for several months — his departure likely spells the end of the website, which, while attracting a large following for its specialised, expert focus on renewable energy, always sat a little uncomfortably in the News Corp stable.
Many of those Crikey contacted were furious about the limited information staffers had been sent about what was going on, though it’s understood some editors have taken more time to explain the changes than others. For a company built on telling people what was going on, one unhappy tabloid journo mused, News Corp’s internal comms were “pretty fucking poor”. Those who were given explanations of the changes were told the redundancies had come because ad revenue had fallen, and the company needed to rethink its cost structure and position within the increasingly digital marketplace.
The journalism union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, “deplores” the 55 job losses announced yesterday. In a statement, MEAA media director Katelin McInerney said the union would “meet with the company in coming days”. “We have called on the company to ensure any job losses are doing through a voluntary redundancy process.” The union, Crikey understands, was told the company would take into consideration those who have previously put their hand up for redundancy and been denied, but the current process cannot really be described as voluntary, given targeted journalists have already been informed they are going, and other staff have yet to be offered the ability to put their hands up.
The redundancy round caught the union off guard. The current EBA forces the company to consult the union about any proposed terminations before going ahead with them (though Crikey understands such clauses are routinely broken by both News and Fairfax). This morning, the News Corp union house committee passed a resolution threatening the company with a trip to the Fair Work Commission if it doesn’t consult the committee on redundancies from now on.
The resolution also called on News Corp to acknowledge that a large number of positions “remain unfilled within the existing operation, and these must be taken into account in determining adequate future resourcing”. The resolution also repeats calls for a voluntary redundancy round.
News Corp’s latest redundancy round follows a period redundancy round at its main commercial competitor, Fairfax. All Fairfax metropolitan staff have recently had meetings with their editors, at which they were encouraged to put up their hands for redundancy if they did not agree with the company’s digital strategy. Crikey has previously covered the departures of people like Rick Feneley and Steve Butcher — highly experienced journalists with decades of experience. But some younger journalists are going too. Amy Corderoy, The Sydney Morning Herald‘s health editor, who Fairfax insiders describe as a “rising star”, has also taken redundancy. Reports yesterday strongly suggested the current, voluntary round is unlikely to be the last conducted by Fairfax in coming months.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said Padraic Murphy had been made redundant. He was not — Crikey misunderstood his Facebook post.