You’re going to hear the words “quality journalism” a lot over the coming weeks.
This is the euphemism the executives and directors at Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment will use, frequently, as the elegant camouflage to dress up a merger deal that has nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with money.
This is a deal — a takeover, not a merger — that is predicated on these propositions:
- Fairfax Media had nowhere to go as a public company. After offloading Domain, its only substantive asset, late last year, Fairfax became primarily a printed newspaper company, and printed newspapers are all but dead as a financial construct.
- The executives and directors of both companies are doing this deal to boost their share prices, deliver themselves rich bonuses, cash out a lot of high priced share options, and make windfall profits for their shareholders.
- To do this, they will combine their revenues, merge their news operations and significantly cut their costs. They are touting cost savings (i.e. staff redundancies, mainly in their newsrooms) of $50 million over two years. A more realistic estimate is $75 million to $100 million a year (they are playing a game called Expectations Management).
- The idea that the traditional journalism of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Financial Review has any qualitative similarity to the journalism produced by the Nine Network is like saying that a fillet of Wagu beef is qualitatively the same as a Big Mac.
The only thing “quality journalism” has to do with this deal is that it is the collateral damage.