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‘Since when has quantity got to do with quality?’: Greg Hywood defends Fairfax job cuts

Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood has tried to shoot down critics who say further cuts at the publisher will mean lower quality publications saying “Since when has quantity got to do with quality?”.

'Let's have the quality debate': Greg Hywood

‘Let’s have the quality debate’: Greg Hywood

Hywood, who has come under fire after announcing a further 120 journalism jobs will be cut at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, penned a piece for Fairfax publications published on Good Friday entitled ‘Let’ have the quality discussion’.

In it he points to the fact the Australian Financial Review had just 25 journalists, a fifth of the number it has today, when he joined in 1975, and just 75 on the SMH, when the paper enjoyed the “rivers of gold” monopoly on classified ad spend.

He wrote: “So let’s put to bed the myth that as Fairfax Media reshapes its publishing model to respond to a very different set of industry economics, and yes, adjusts its staffing levels accordingly, there is some dire threat to quality journalism.

“Fairfax Media has always adjusted to the vagaries of the marketplace but always in the context of delivering our essential promise of independent, fearless reporting.”

Last week hundreds of Fairfax journalists took wildcat strike action after the publisher announced its plans for the cuts, with many claiming the company’s move to produce less but more “effective” content would mean more click bait articles. 

But in the article Hywood says the staffing numbers of the papers increased “not because the newspaper needed to lift its quality – it had plenty of that – but to fill the space between the ever increasing number of ads”.

“Some of what was produced to fill those enormous Saturday papers could not qualify under any definition of “quality journalism”. It was the “clickbait” of its time,” he added.

He said the company had been using analytics to determine the articles most in demand from readers from the 9,000 it publishes each month, saying “we are focusing our journalism on the areas of their greatest interest and demand”.

“If we satisfy that interest and deliver it through the appropriate mix of digital and print we have – under the plan we have been implementing for the past five years – a sustainable publishing business,” he wrote.

Hywood then claimed the company has never invested more in investigative reporting from the likes of Adele Ferguson, pointing to stories including the Commonwealth Bank scandals, the Essendon doping saga and the ICAC corruption investigations as being led by Fairfax reporting.

He ends with the line: “Make no mistake – as we reshape our business to meet readers’ demands we will not take a backward step on quality and we will not back away from tackling the tough issues.

“And I am prepared to bet that in another five years we will still be Australia’s leading publisher. Let’s check back in then.”

Alex Hayes

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