Fairfax editorial director Sean Aylmer will be addressing the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newsrooms this afternoon as the company tries to halt an uprising over the forced redundancies of several journalists who work on its Drive section as a result of a new joint venture under which content will be provided by a company only 50% owned by Fairfax.

As Crikey reported yesterday, Fairfax is entering into a 50-50 joint venture with themotorreport.com.au and will license the Drive brand to the new company. Drive runs in the Fairfax metro papers on Saturdays and employs around half-a-dozen journalists who produce news, features and other content for the supplement.

But no more. Crikey is told that on Tuesday that six Drive journalists were taken aside and told their publication was being outsourced, with Fairfax making them all redundant. They could, however, apply for jobs with the new joint venture.

While editorial is being outsourced, Crikey is told ad sales for the section will continue to be housed within Fairfax. Staff are angry about what this says about the company’s priorities. The changes were a key topic of discussion at last night’s Sydney Morning Herald Christmas party.

One Fairfax staffer says journalists are “furious” that editorial copy used by Fairfax’s websites and papers will now be written by people working for a different company. The haphazard nature of the change has also drawn journalists’ ire. “It looks like the company didn’t even think twice about what this means for their ‘independent, always’ brand,” one journalist said.

Journalists also fear outsourcing of editorial content in this manner will continue throughout other parts of the papers. We asked Fairfax this morning whether this was likely, but a spokesman declined to comment beyond what was in Fairfax’s release yesterday.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey