Michael Miller News Corp cuts
(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

News Corp Australia papers seemingly found it impossible to report on its own editorial job cuts on Tuesday, with 55 jobs said to be going in the latest purge.

Adding in the jobs hacked when it and Nine closed the Your Money TV joint venture channel, and earlier cuts at the Courier Mail and other papers, after this round the company will have gotten rid of more than 90 people.

News Corp papers certainly didn’t detail the job losses when Your Money was chopped. Even though Nine had half the channel, it was too close to home because Your Money was a News Corp debacle. And when Seven West Media cut 32 jobs at The West Australian in April, there was only a smidge of publicity in the Oz media section.

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The latest cuts came hours after News Corp Australia executive chair, Michael Miller appeared in interviews with The Australian Financial ReviewThe Australian and Business Weekend (the new Sunday business program on Sky News which is 100% owned by News Corp).

In those interviews on Sunday and Monday, Miller made it clear jobs would be going at News, but no one thought they would be going so quickly. 

Miller said the cuts “will be across the board”. He made it clear that they won’t only be journalists but in the company’s commercial operations. He said the cuts will not be limited to “one part” of the company “or geographic areas” He also said there will be people hired with different skills to meet the changes and challenges from the evolving environment.

Additionally he said the company was looking to adjust staffing levels among journalists to better match skills to what the company will need in the future. He made it clear the cuts will “see people who have been working for the company for some time, leaving”. Miller said the cuts “would be targeted to all areas of the company.” When asked about the number of cuts, Miller replied “We don’t talk numbers, we talk to people”.

Two and a bit years ago News Corp HQ in New York demanded the Australian arm cut close to $100 million in costs. Those costs were cut — April, 2017 saw the company cut most of its photographers and in September of the same year 30 editorial jobs were cut at the various newspapers.

“Talk to people” as Miller put it is really a euphemism for the proverbial tap on the shoulder in a meeting with an executive editor, a letter, your redundancy details, an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and out the door.

The journalists’ union, the MEAA, said its members read about the cuts in news stories before they were told by management. Media director Katelin McInerney said members in the newsrooms were angry there were cuts when the company was also boasting about subscriber numbers and online growth.

“The subscription and readership growth has come about because skilled and experienced journalists have been delivering the kind of content News Corp readers want to see, despite already working in understaffed and under-resourced newsrooms,” she said. “It is counter intuitive to keep relying on short-term cuts and short-term thinking at a time when their audiences are demanding more of their journalism.”

A News Corp Australia spokeswoman said the cuts were about meeting “the changing demands of our consumers and customers.

“Like any company, we need to evolve our business to be the best we can be, to ensure we have the right skills, the right practices and the right model for the future,” she said. “Some roles across the company and in our newsrooms will be impacted by these changes and unfortunately, there will be a number of redundancies.”

This time though we can thank the media union for detailing the number of the latest cuts — 55 all told. Miller’s reticence to put a figure on the cuts is all about trying to minimise the news value — a figure makes for an easy headline.

The cynics have pointed out the cuts came two weeks after the election result with News Corp cheering home Scott Morrison and still celebrating his re-election. Most of the cuts though look like they will be outside metro tabloids with regional and rural papers taking the most significant hit.

2 – The Australian (Sydney)
4 – Sydney metros
15 – Victorian metros including Weekly Times rural paper
2 – Victorian regionals
10 – Adelaide
4 – Brisbane
7 – Regional Qld and NT
6 – Tasmania
5 – Group editorial 

The loss of five group editorial positions is unlikely to affect the “mahogany row” at the Holt Street HQ. Top brass like Chris Dore, Ben English or Paul Whittaker at Sky News won’t be affected nor will it be anyone terribly senior at the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne (which has now been folded into Nationwide News, News Corp’s Australia-wide publishing arm).

When a media company is getting rid of experienced journalists in specialist areas you know the company is not interested in coverage, breaking stories or in news — only costs. Even experienced finance journalist Scott Murdoch wasn’t immune to recent measures and took a redundancy in March.

Readers of The Australian’s finance pages will have noticed the slow rise in the number of Wall Street Journal stories in the paper each day (most of which have no relevance to Australia) and the slow rise in the number of stories from Australian writers for Dow Jones, the news service owned by the Journal. It’s all about cost. 

What are your thoughts on the latest round of job cuts? Send your comments to boss@crikey.com.au. Please include your full name.  

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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