HUNDREDS of journalists from one of Australia’s largest media companies Fairfax Media are on a week-long strike after management announced AUD$30 million cuts to editorial staff, protesting in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra this week.
The proposed cost cutting will see 125 staff laid off from the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Brisbane Times and the Australian Financial Review mastheads, seeing the number of journalists in Fairfax’s newsrooms reduced by 25 percent.
The job cuts were announced on World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, leading to a mass walkout across the company’s newspapers. Canberra Press Gallery reporters have also gone on strike, which will impact Fairfax publications’ coverage of Australia’s 2017-18 Federal Budget.
Sydney, Melbourne will suffer
“The newsrooms simply can’t take any more cuts,” Parliament House economics reporter for the Herald and The Age Eryk Bagshaw told Asian Correspondent on Friday. “Taking out a quarter of our staff represents a serious threat to the quality of the journalism we can produce.”
“We are striking over the budget, the most significant political event on the calendar, to show just how desperate we are to maintain the integrity of our newsrooms.”
The Herald is Australia’s longest running newspaper and is the country’s most read newspaper online. On Friday, it published a glaring error in its headline which read “Household debt a threat to ecomomy.”
— Sabra Lane (@SabraLane) May 4, 2017
The arts and culture sections of Fairfax newspapers will be hit hardest “because no one covers them like we do,” said Bagshaw.
Fairfax Media was forced to cancel the “SMH Live: 100 Days of Trump” event at Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW on Friday night featuring a panel of the Herald’s senior editors and correspondents, reports Mumbrella.
The Australian trade union for journalists the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) stated “these cuts are bad for journalism, bad for democracy and press freedom, and bad for the future of not only the Fairfax business, but for the entire industry in Australia.”
— FairGoFairfax (@fairgofairfax) May 5, 2017
Fourth estate at stake
Protests are targeting the chief executive Greg Hywood, who drew controversy in 2014 for purchasing a Maserati supercar worth $140,000 amidst widespread cuts and hard-fought wage negotiations for editorial staff.
The company’s plan to slash $30 million is an equivalent figure to that awarded in recent bonuses to Fairfax executives, reported ABC News.
— Marcus Strom (@strom_m) May 4, 2017
The decision follows an announcement last month by Fairfax’s main competitor, Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp, which will see most of the company’s photographers made redundant and a drastic reduction in sub-editing staff.
“At times like this the solidarity between journalists is greater than the rivalry between news outlets,” the media union tweeted on Thursday along with a statement from News Corp’s MEAA house committee.
“The cuts proposed by Fairfax management are disgraceful. If carried out would damage the interests of the Australian public by dramatically reducing the number of journalists scrutinising matters of importance in the life of the country,” said the statement.
Journalists from number of other media organisations including Private Media-owned Crikey as well as the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also declared their solidarity. Striking Fairfax Media staff have said they will return to work on Wednesday, May 10.
“You need to maintain journalists that are willing to put the hard yards in to cover these stories, or the powerful will be able to get away with much more than they are now, and that is not helpful for any democracy,” added Bagshaw.
“If the cuts go ahead you won’t see the same depth of coverage we have had for 185 years, simple as that.”