More than half of the journalists at Melbourne suburban newspaper group Metro Media Publishing have been let go by owner Fairfax on Friday, as the Weekly Review papers move to a more national, lifestyle focus.
Newsroom sources say the news was delivered by Domain’s Trent Casson, head of content and audience Melina Cruickshank, and human resources representative Stuart Cumming at 11am on Friday. The redundancies are to take place in a little less than a month — November 11.
The plan, as far as Crikey understands, is for the Weekly Review suburban titles to function as the lifestyle arm of the Domain editorial network, publishing more national features instead of the the local news they had prioritised a few years back. In this sense, it’s a continuation of a trend that began last year, when the papers moved away from local news and towards lifestyle content. Layout and subediting will be outsourced to AAP’s Pagemasters.
Among those made redundant were long-serving property editor Maria Harris, who started with the company when it began in Port Melbourne in 2010 and was a property writer for Weekly Review progenitor Fairfax Community Network before that. Others to be given their marching orders are Miranda Tay, formerly of The Age, production editor Jane Canaway and several long-serving reporters.
Sixteen journalists will be made redundant, including all but one of the subeditors (the team had six or seven people), all the journalists but two (the reporting team had six or seven people across multiple magazines), most of the topic editors and half the designers. The glossy papers had one of the last standing subediting desks in the Australian media, and almost certainly the last to remain at Fairfax. Despite its absorption into Fairfax, union sources say MMP continues to operate on its own, less generous enterprise bargaining agreement.
Each of the nine Weekly Review suburban papers function as separate businesses, though they share costs. Because of this, there is a reluctance to cut any of the papers — all survive, though with less bespoke content, and presumably more reliance on freelancers.
MMP was started in 2010 by former Fairfax real estate executive Antony Catalano. Its titles bled Fairfax of millions in real estate advertising partly through its “agent-equity” model, under which real estate agents bought a stake in the publications that carried their real estate advertising. Fairfax’s Domain purchased a half-stake in the business in 2012, bringing it inside the tent, and purchased the rest of it last year. Catalano is now head of Domain and is considered a potential successor to Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood.