Fairfax Media announced this morning that it would cut the equivalent of 120 full-time jobs from its metropolitan newsrooms, a heavy toll some journalists are saying could amount to one in four positions going.

In an email sent to staff at 11am this morning, editorial director Sean Aylmer said the company was entering into negotiations with journalists’ union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance to reduce costs across the news and business newsrooms. The cuts will affect The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review. The announcement went to staff in the newsrooms of The Canberra Times and the online-only titles WAToday and the Brisbane Times, but the cuts will apply only to the Sydney and Melbourne newsrooms.

Many Fairfax journalists have pointed out on Twitter that the cuts could add up to one in four jobs. Others disagreed with that figure. With cost reductions in other places, it’s possible the final figure of positions gone could be significantly less than 120. Fairfax will also be “tightening contributor budgets and reducing travel costs and expenses”.

Aylmer said:

“Change is a permanent part of our industry. It is a reflection of what we know about the ways our readers are consuming our stories. We must continue to evolve with them.”

Fairfax, Aylmer continued, would become “more efficient” in producing “quality journalism”, with decisions “based on our understanding of our audience and the importance of our brands”. Reporting would continue to focus on investigations, state and federal politics, justice and breaking news, sport, entertainment and business, he said.

Journalists told Crikey that as they understood the announcement, editors would be given some leeway as to how they cut costs. This means they could save some jobs by finding savings in other ways, like reducing the number of pages printed or slashing travel costs. The Age and SMH have already been heavily cut in recent years, but the AFR has been relatively more insulated.

It’s been a month to the day since Fairfax unveiled a restructure at its metro papers, further integrating the newsrooms and prioritising digital-first publication. Staff Crikey spoke to then were very relieved that the change wasn’t accompanied by redundancies, though that appears to have been short-lived. The Australian reported last November that Fairfax would slash up to 150 jobs by May — perhaps the decision was made some time ago.

Fairfax’s share price rose 4.16% in morning trading today.

Peter Fray

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