Fairfax’s editorial director Sean Aylmer resigns

Fairfax Media’s most senior editorial executive Sean Aylmer has resigned from the company after 20 years.

Aylmer, who has been part of a series of redundancy rounds at the publishing giant over the last 18 months, left Fairfax Media on Tuesday afternoon.

Aylmer: ‘It has been an honour and a privilege’

The editorial director first joined Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald after working at the Reserve Bank of Australia as an economist.

Starting out on the business section of the SMH writing on banking and economics, Aylmer went on to work at The Australian Financial Review as the Canberra economics writer, before becoming foreign correspondent in New York.

On his return to Australia, he was appointed as the paper’s banking and finance editor, followed by news editor and then managing editor.

He later became the editor in chief of Fairfax’s BRW magazine and was also previously editor in chief of the SMH.

Aylmer was then appointed group director for business media in 2013, before moving into his current role as editorial director in 2014.

In his most recent role, he was responsible for the publishing giant’s largest titles, including SMH, The Age and The AFR.

During his time as editorial boss, Alymer cut 100 jobs in 2016 and an additional 125 earlier this year, the latter of which were said to achieve $30m in savings.

Aylmer wrote to staff in an email on Tuesday afternoon: “Today is my last day at Fairfax.

“It has been an honour and a privilege working with you all for so long. Keep doing what you’re doing and Fairfax has a bright future.”

Chris Janz, managing director of metro publishing at Fairfax Media wrote in a second email obtained by Mumbrella: “We are grateful to Sean for the immense contribution he has made.

“He has led an incredible publishing transformation and modernisation of our newsrooms – and overseen some of the best journalism in our company’s history.

“Sean’s direct reports will report to me while we review the structure and our requirements for the future.”

The company has been through a series of restructures in recent years, most notably in 2012 which saw a slew of senior journalists leave the organisation.

Over the last year, Fairfax Media’s metro publishing division has undergone several major changes, beginning with the appointment of Chris Janz as managing director of metro publishing.

In May, Fairfax Media announced it would axe 125 jobs as part of a $30m restructure to the business.

In an internal email to staff at the time, Aylmer said: “We will shortly open a voluntary redundancy program to achieve a reduction in staff of up to 125 FTEs, which includes the approximate 10 FTEs that have left the newsroom since this process began last month. While we will be looking across all parts of the newsroom, at the end of the redundancy program we expect there will be significantly fewer editorial management, video, presentation and section writer roles.”

The redundancies saw a swift reaction from Fairfax staff members, who walked off the job for a week in May, at the time of the Federal Budget announcement.

At the time, Janz and Aylmer reminded staff that under the Fairfax Media Metropolitan Journalists Enterprise Agreement 2016, the strike was unlawful.

This year Fairfax Media’s metro division unveiled its new commercial strategy, which involved a “rip it up and start again” approach, and a move away from Facebook.

Matt Rowley, chief revenue officer at Fairfax Metro Publishing, told Mumbrella at the time that the company’s remaining staff were happy with the new commercial strategy.

“Loving it. And part of that for example is, they love what the product says about the brands and how it represents the brands and the quality that it shows and the engagement it gives, and the space that it gives the content,” he said.

Asked why Fairfax decided to make a bold change, Rowley said it came down to the company’s mission.

“It’s probably because we are so clear on what our mission is as a company and because of that, and because we have the strength to be able to do it…you put that together with our conviction as far as what we are here to do, we came to an inescapable conclusion that if we kept going the way things were, we weren’t going to be able to keep that mission going.

“You have to put the hats off to the board to ask the hard questions and say ‘What do you need to do to make it happen?’

At the same time as the restructure to Fairfax’s metro division, the company is set to float its real estate business Domain in November.

Fairfax’s FY17 annual results results revealed a 5.3% decline in total revenue to $1.732b, a 9% decline in Australian Metro Media’s revenue ($522.2m) and an overall increased net profit of $142.6m.


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