Ex-Fairfax journalists criticise redundancies and cost-cuttings at AGM

Two ex-Fairfax journalists have taken the publishing company’s board to task at the Fairfax annual general meeting over its handling of redundancies and increasing editorial mistakes as a result of cost-cutting.

Founding editor of The Weekly Review, Eileen Berry, criticised the Fairfax board, including chairman Nick Falloon and CEO Greg Hywood, for the handling of 16 redundancies at The Weekly Review last month.

weekly review logo

While Berry acknowledged the necessity of redundancies, she told the board “on behalf of every Fairfax journalist” that her former colleagues “weren’t treated with the due respect that should have been given.”

“I implore you, please treat the people who work in your businesses with respect,” she urged.

eileen berry linkedin

Former Fairfax journalist Eileen Berry implores Fairfax to treat staff with respect

Fairfax Media publishes the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and owns real-estate company Domain.

Falloon’s response was to “wholeheartedly agree”, while Hywood reminded shareholders that Fairfax is a legacy business that has been running in a financially unsustainable manner for many years.

“There is no easy way to go through this process… but what we try and do is treat people with utmost respect,” said Falloon.

Meanwhile Jim Schembri, who stated he had previously written for “four radically different newspapers, each called The Age”, asked the entire board how they felt seeing grammatical errors on the front pages of the company’s print editions.

Falloon allowed only Hywood to respond, who blamed the “trade between accuracy and speed”.

Greg Hywood, CEO of Fairfax Media.

Greg Hywood, CEO of Fairfax Media.

Schembri also claimed “I do live in fear that every day the paper is going to go out of print and go digital early”, expressing hope that the board would do everything in their power to prevent this despite Hywood’s previous assertion that this transition is inevitable.

The AGM saw shareholders voice concern for the increasing proportion of the company’s value that lies in intangible assets, totalling $754m in the last financial year.


Falloon attributed the figure to the goodwill that Fairfax-owned real estate site Domain brings to the company – which, due to accounting rules, cannot be listed as part of the media masthead’s assets following on from Fairfax Media splitting the Domain Group away from the Australian Metro Media division ahead of the company’s financial results announcement in August.

Domain, having made a number of acquisitions last year, is listed with a goodwill value of $206m.

Domain spring 2

Shareholder Peter Metcalfe criticised the stagnation of dividends, which despite a significant buyback remain at four cents for two years in a row. Falloon attributed this to the current media landscape, promising “where we can pay dividends, we will pay dividends.”

Year-to-date revenues for the 2017 financial year have fallen in every group except Domain, which has seen a 2% increase. Metro media is down by 8%, Australian Community Media by 10%, Macquarie Media by 1% and New Zealand Media by 4% accounting for currency impact. This still represents a slight improvement on Fairfax’s last trading update.

Shareholders voted to reappoint Linda Nicholls and Sandra McPhee to the board, while also voting in newcomer Patrick Allaway as a non-executive director.


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