May 13, 2016

Michael West among Fairfax redundancies

Hard-hitting business journo Michael West is among those saying goodbye to Fairfax.

Myriam Robin — Media Reporter

Myriam Robin

Media Reporter

Senior business reporter Michael West, whose work appeared in the Business Day sections of the Sydney Morning Herald and Age, is leaving Fairfax today. West confirmed his compulsory redundancy but declined to comment further. In a tweet after this piece was published online, West wrote: "Told my skill-set not aligned with Fairfax strategy going forward."


West is one of the country's most hard-hitting investigative business journalists. His detailed coverage of the tax and accounting practices of big business has been crucial to providing politicians with the information and ammunition necessary to go after tax-dodging businesses in recent months. The type of journalism he does is complex and often bitterly contested. His stories often need the careful eye of a lawyer -- the type of journalism that needs a big media business to afford it. In Australia, this type of costly investigative business journalism mostly falls to Fairfax. Fairfax's executives say they're proud of it. In a recent opinion piece CEO Greg Hywood spruiked the company's focus on investigations. "At no time in Fairfax Media’s long history has the company devoted more resources and support to this area. That won’t be changing," he wrote. While all of Fairfax's journalists investigate things to differing levels, West's redundancy will have multinationals breaking out the bubbly, with one fewer check on corporate malfeasance. And it is good news for News Corp; West, a one-time News Corp employee, has been a major thorn in the company's side for years, covering its financial dealings and tax-minimisation strategies. His work has been heavily disputed by News Corp, which has often put great pressure on Fairfax over it. In recent disputes, Fairfax has stood firm. In its most recent redundancy round, the company has cut a swathe through the ranks of its business journalists. The Financial Review, which has been insulated from previous rounds, is bleeding staff. Most of the cuts, many of which are voluntary redundancies, are from Sydney, and represent a thinning of the ranks of the dedicated business rounds reporters who power the Fin's Companies and Markets section. Veteran economics editor Alan Mitchell is out, as are international editor Tony Walker and Asia Pacific editor Greg Earl. Property guru Robert Harley is gone (a blow to the paper's most extensive and lucrative section). Media editor Dominic White is departing, as is Jared Lynch, who used to write on media and marketing but now covers several industries. As is aviation reporter Jamie Freed, financial services reporter Shaun Drummond, accounting editor Agnes King, personal finance reporter Kate Cowling, and workplace reporter Rachel Nickless. Financial services reporter Ruth Liew, agriculture, construction and manufacturing reporter Tim Binsted, court and legal affairs reporter Marianna Papdakis, and gaming and resources reporter Perry Williams are all leaving. Deputy opinion editor Mark Lawson, who also covers climate and energy, is leaving. Ky Chow, hired from Sky News four years ago to head the Fin's multimedia team, is leaving. The paper is down a cartoonist in Rod Clement. As we've previously reported, workplace columnist Fiona Smith is also leaving. Business Day, which has been sharing stories with the Fin, has also been hit. Digital editor Chris Jenkins has taken a package. Stephen Cauchi, a twenty-year veteran who has most recently been covering markets, is out. And senior Business Day columnist Malcolm Maiden has also put his hand up. At the Sydney Morning Herald, another investigative giant has taken a redundancy package. Gold Walkley winner Anne Davies, the papers' investigations editor, departs after 22 years on June 10.  At The Age, Lawrence Money, responsible for the obituaries, says he's "taking the dough". Senior writers Suzanne Carbone and Jill Stark, both at the same paper, are leaving, as are opinion editors Paul Austin and Sushi Das, environment editor Tom Arup, and reporter Alana Schetzer. The Sydney Morning Herald's national affairs editor Tom Allard is leaving -- he's a former Indonesia correspondent too, which gave him an uncommon insight into our most populous neighbour. Supreme Court reporter Mark Russell has also taken a redundancy after 13 years at Fairfax. Senior arts writer Philippa Hawker has also left, despite her readers starting a public petition to save her job. Clement is not the only cartoonist to go -- the arts departments of the metros have been hard hit. Age journalist and illustrator John Spooner is out, as is Sydney Morning Herald illustrator Rocco Fazzari.  The Queensland and West Australian outposts have also had departures. WAToday's Aleisha Orr is leaving, and at the Brisbane Times, reporter Kim Stephens is out.

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14 thoughts on “Michael West among Fairfax redundancies

  1. Awmy Gaaaahd

    Good thing too, more room for interns to learn what it’s like to write clickbait for free.

  2. Paul Kennelly

    Michael West will be a great loss to readers and the public debate. On the other hand, Peter Hartcher would have been no loss at all. Endless fence sitting in journalism is a waste of time – especially for an opinion writer. Michael’s opinions were always backed up with meticulous research and data, something we need more of not less.

    1. Salamander

      Agreed. I can’t believe they have sacked Michael West.

  3. bjb

    All Fairfax needs to do now is sack Gittens, Martin and Jessica Irvine and then there’ll be absolutely no reason to read buy their papers or visit their web site. West was brilliant, and I hope he gets a gig elsewhere – maybe at the ABC joining Ian Verrender.

  4. Jack Robertson

    Seriously, this bunch of corporate toadies have been masquerading as a ‘progressive’ newspaper for years anyway, but to sack the gutsiest and most competent taxation specialist in business journalism, in the middle of an election campaign in which tax rorting/policy unfairness is probably the single most keenly-debated issue, is beyond all belief. And exactly much more click-bait about the Kardashians, soft-left identity politics filler, Fitzsimonian self-promotion IN CAPITAL LETTERS and shilling for the Sydney real estate industry will the shaving of West’s salary from their operating costs be able to fund, anyway? Surely that kind of ‘news’ is maxed out already.

  5. mark hipgrave

    “You’ll Never Believe What Fairfax Are Doing to Their Staff”
    A few weeks ago someone tried to justify Fairfax’s use of click bait on the basis that it helped fund the serious stuff. But if you’ve got no one left to write the serious stuff, then why bother? No one is going to go to smh celebrity gossip and ten amazing ways to loose belly fat. This seems like a crazy move to me – Spooners cartoon said it all.

  6. mark hipgrave

    “You’ll Never Believe What Fairfax Are Doing to Their Staff”
    A few weeks ago someone tried to justify Fairfax’s use of click bait on the basis that it helped fund the serious stuff. But if you’ve got no one left to write the serious stuff, then why bother? No one is going to go to for celebrity gossip and ten amazing ways to loose belly fat. has already got that gig . This seems like a crazy move to me – Spooners cartoon said it all.

  7. bushby jane

    Adler Ferguson would be the next logical victim, makes you wonder whose payroll the bosses are on.

  8. John Candido

    I am completely astonished that Michael West has been sacked from Fairfax. Michael was the most competent business journalist with a very incisive and analytical mind. He was also a very funny and entertaining writer. I always enjoyed reading his intelligent and well researched articles. He will be sadly missed by scores of people.

  9. Scott Grant

    I tend to avoid financial and business writing like the plague. As far as I am concerned, the entire AFR could disappear without a trace. But even I have heard of Michael West and read some of his articles. I find it incomprehensible that Fairfax would willingly dispense with him. Not for the fist time, I am seriously wondering if is worth continuing to support this dysfunctional organization.

  10. MAC TEZ

    Would not have cared if SMH had let Hartcher /Kenny/Irvine go but West was probably their best, get him over here Crikey !

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