A celebrated career full of public and industry acclaim wasn’t enough to save Age journalist and illustrator John Spooner, who was one of those tapped for redundancy by the paper’s management yesterday. “It’s a watershed moment in Australian print media, the first time a triple-Walkley winner — as well as being 2002 Graham Perkin Journalist of the Year — has been told his services are not required,” a tipster said.

About 30 journalists from The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review were pulled into meetings by senior management yesterday, after the company didn’t fill the requisite 82 redundancies it was seeking through voluntary means. It’s the first time in a while Fairfax has conducted a large-scale compulsory redundancy round — it seems after several years of shrinking newsrooms, there are not as many with one foot out the door keen to take packages.

While the names of who’s going are still coming through, cartoonists and illustrators have been in the firing line, with Sydney Morning Herald illustrator Rocco Fazzari also leaving. “Sadly for me and my young family after 25 years of hard dedicated work and loyal service I have been targeted for compulsory redundancy,” he posted on Facebook. Crikey has heard of at least one other long-standing cartoonist tapped yesterday, but we were unable to confirm the redundancy by deadline.

Announcing her redundancy yesterday was senior Age writer Jill Stark, widely respected for her nuanced writing on social issues. “It’s been one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make but after much soul-searching I’ve decided to take voluntary redundancy from The Age,” she wrote on Facebook. Also taking to Facebook to announce her departure is the AFR’s Fiona Smith, a columnist who specialises in leadership and management issues. “Even though you think you are prepared, it is always a shock,” she wrote. Smith has been at Fairfax for 21 years. Also gone from the Fin — aviation reporter Jamie Freed, after 11 years at Fairfax. Taking a voluntary redundancy is Age environment editor Tom Arup. He’s the only named staff environment writer at The Age, but several others, including his predecessor Adam Morton and his Sydney and Canberra counterparts, still cover the round. This afternoon, Brisbane Times reporter Kim Stephens revealed she’d also taken a redundancy. She said she was off overseas to “try my luck out there”. In Perth, WAToday’s Aleisha Orr says she’s leaving. Taking redundancy after 21 years to spend more time with her “chubby piggybank” (her words) is The Age’s Suzanne Carbone. Also signalling his departure was SMH national affairs editor Tom Allard. 

At stop-work meetings in Melbourne and Sydney today, staff at the Sydney Morning Herald, Age and Financial Review passed a motion saying they’d lost confidence in CEO Greg Hywood and managing director Allen Williams. Union rep and journalist Marcus Strom says the union is still “fighting for every job”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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