Fairfax Media has announced a proposal that could see more than 70 positions go from its newspaper arm Australian Publishing Media (APM) across its editorial production, lifestyle and photographic sections.
In an email to staff this morning, Allen Williams, managing director of APM, which publishes mastheads such as the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Canberra Times, said the “proposed changes” would see the publisher shed around 35 copy-editing and page layout jobs in Sydney and Melbourne by the end of 2014.
The changes would also mean the loss of 15 positions from Life Media, Fairfax’s lifestyle division, and 30 positions in photographic would go as a result of using more pictures from Getty Images. The move, which will see only 5 photographers in Sydney and 5 in Melbourne, has been denounced by the journalists’ union.
The move comes amid uncertainty over what Fairfax will do after cancelling its contract for sub-editing with Pagemasters. As Mumbrella revealed last month, Fairfax is set to end the contract which sees the AAP service subbing news pages across the various mastheads with strong suggestions the 40 jobs in question will be moving to New Zealand.
In the email to staff Williams references the changes and says the company is looking for “new arrangements”.
“Any new arrangements will absorb more copy-editing and page layout work,” Williams wrote. “As a result, we propose to reduce our in-house editorial production team by about 35 FTEs (Full Time Employees) in Sydney and Melbourne no later than December 2014. Included in this number are 10 roles, currently part of the editorial production team, which will move to report directly to newsroom editors.”
Williams goes on to detail the other proposed cuts which include 15 positions from Life Media and also major changes to Fairfax’s photographic division.
“A more flexible structure that better suits modern journalism practices is being proposed and briefings will be conducted today and tomorrow in both Sydney and Melbourne with those affected. We anticipate a reduction of approximately 15 FTEs,” he writes in regards to the lifestyle division of the publisher.
In photographic Fairfax has signalled it will overhaul how it uses photographs, drawing more on Getty Images and restructuring its teams.
“New photographic arrangements would see News, Life and Business in Sydney and Melbourne make greater use of external service provider Getty Images for photographic assignments,” he says.
“The proposed changes would see a reduction of approximately 30 FTEs, retaining approximately 10 staff photographers and approximately 10 photo desk staff who would work as part of a merged visuals commissioning desk. There would be significantly less use of casuals and contributors engaged directly by Fairfax.”
Fairfax Media declined to comment on the changes or whether a decision has been made on whether the company would send more sub-editing jobs to New Zealand.
The journalists union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, has previously expressed concerns about moving more production jobs overseas.
“We have a question in our minds how much more work Fairfax can take on in its New Zealand operation,” an MEAA spokesman told Mumbrella last month.
The changes come after a recent highly publicised edition of the Australian Financial Review, which saw the financial business newspaper publish an error-ridden front page which included the heading “the world is fukt.”
Fairfax staff told Mumbrella they were very concerned with the changes, with one staffer referencing the AFR front page saying “These changes are fukt – FUKT.”
Update 11.45am – The journalists’ union has just denounced the changes with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance describing them as an “attack on the quality journalism”.
“The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) says the latest round of redundancies at Fairfax Media’s metro daily newspapers represent an assault on the quality journalism that has been the hallmark of the group for more than a century,” said the statement.
The House Committees at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald will meet later today to discuss the option of industrial action.
Allen Williams’ full email to staff:
Today we have started discussions with staff about introducing new arrangements in Editorial Production, Life Media and Photographic in Australian Publishing Media.The proposed changes outlined below are focused on the continuing transformation of our business. We must deliver our high-quality content in the most efficient way possible.
We will be consulting with affected staff and holding briefings to address any questions you may have about each of the proposed new arrangements.
Fairfax currently operates a company-wide approach to editorial production, which involves delivering copy-editing and page layout services in a variety of ways to meet the needs of our mastheads.
Three years ago The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and more recently The Canberra Times started working with Pagemasters for copy-editing across news, business and sport print sections. The contract with Pagemasters expires soon and we are in the process of reviewing these external arrangements.
Any new arrangements will absorb more copy-editing and page layout work. As a result, we propose to reduce our in-house editorial production team by about 35 FTEs in Sydney and Melbourne no later than December 2014. Included in this number are 10 roles, currently part of the editorial production team, which will move to report directly to newsroom editors. These new positions will be open for application to all News, Business and Life editorial staff.
Our retained team of about 33 FTEs remain reporting to the Managing Editor Production (Australia), Tanya Adams. This team will handle key digital and print production for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times and magazines.
New arrangements would see Life Media restructure some of its divisions to make greater use of contributors to deliver editorial content. The proposed changes preserve our commitment to quality and would help accelerate the continued growth and expansion of these areas which are an important part of our business.
A more flexible structure that better suits modern journalism practices is being proposed and briefings will be conducted today and tomorrow in both Sydney and Melbourne with those affected. We anticipate a reduction of approximately 15 FTEs.
The new structure would create several new roles and these positions will be open for application to all News, Business and Life Media editorial staff.
New photographic arrangements would see News, Life and Business in Sydney and Melbourne make greater use of external service provider Getty Images for photographic assignments.
The proposed changes would see a reduction of approximately 30 FTEs, retaining approximately 10 staff photographers and approximately 10 photo desk staff who would work as part of a merged visuals commissioning desk. There would be significantly less use of casuals and contributors engaged directly by Fairfax.
Our photographic needs across all platforms continue to be commissioned by editorial however most assignments will be facilitated by Getty photographers for our publications. Fairfax retains the copyright in the photos and they will be for Fairfax’s exclusive use.
The changes we are proposing are similar to the more progressive and efficient models being used by other media organisations around the world.
Fairfax has a long relationship with Getty, which is an award-winning global provider of photographic and other media services across all publishing platforms. We already make extensive use of Getty photographers for our sport and digital requirements.
Under the new arrangements, Matt Martel will take on the role of Executive Editor – Photography and Presentation, with oversight of photography, design, graphics and illustration.
Editorial management will be providing Editorial Production, Life Media and Photographic with more detail about the proposed changes and any resultant redundancy program. Briefings and feedback sessions will be held with these teams as part of our consultation process.
We have already been in contact with the MEAA about these proposed changes.
We anticipate being in a position to advise on next steps by 14 May 2014.
Managing Director – Australian Publishing Media
Full statement by the MEAA:
The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) says the latest round of redundancies at Fairfax Media’s metro daily newspapers represent an assault on the quality journalism that has been the hallmark of the group for more than a century.
With about 10 per cent of all staff targeted, the decision aims to strip a net 25 full-time equivalent jobs from editorial production, 30 photographers (while outsourcing photos to Getty Images) and up to 15 from the Life Media division.
MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren said: “This will further erode the ability of the staff who remain to do their jobs without a marked increase in work intensification. It strips a massive loss in skills, experience and knowledge from the group.
“Fairfax seems incapable of deciding on new production arrangements and sticking with them. The only decision the company seems capable of making is to keep cutting staff.
“When do we reach the point of no return? Why isn’t more effort being made to protect and promote editorial quality and utilise smarter ways of working? At what point does Fairfax stop being a news organisation and merely become a commissioning agency that outsources everything it does?”
MEAA will hold stop-work meetings with members at Fairfax daily newspapers in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra and will pursue discussions with the company.