Another Monday and it is on again. As we settle back in to the media new year The Australian’s media sections settles back into one of its longest-running stories: when will Fairfax mastheads The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age kill the weekday print editions?

Ever since Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood spoke in May last year about the inevitability of Fairfax cutting its print operations down to weekend print runs only for the two metro papers and scrapping the weekend edition of The Australian Financial Review the media writers at The Australian have been predicting the imminent demise of the print editions as sooner rather than later.

Today’s report by business journalist Damon Kitney quotes Fairfax shareholder Alex Waislitz who claims he is rallying up to 20% of Fairfax shareholders to push for the shutdown of the weekday editions of the mastheads. It is another in a long series of rumours, reports and allegations that the print editions and associated staff redundancies will be happening sooner rather than later this year.

Staff at The Age in Melbourne have spoken conspiratorially about the implications of the current relocation of staff in the office. There are rumours it is a portend of the redundancies that will follow scrapping the print editions.

But a long-term staffer told Crikey the opposite is the case and the plans to drop the weekday editions have been permanently shelved. “Pretty much around the end of last year the sense was they will hold on to the print editions as long as possible.” The damage to the brand, the distribution logistics and the ongoing viability of the weekday editions mean that they will continue in their current form for the foreseeable future, the senior journalist said. The frequency of the predictions of the demise of the weekday editions is something that has annoyed and amused those working at The Age. “Almost every Monday they come up with something. I’ve stopped reading them,” one Fairfax journalist told Crikey.

The Fairfax Media spokesperson told Crikey this morning: “We have no plans to change from daily printing and we expect that to be the case for some years into the future.”

So does The Australian have a scoop that we don’t know about, or is this just wishful thinking to bump off a competitor?

Peter Fray

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