This morning at 10am is the deadline for journalists at Fairfax Media to accept the latest redundancy offer and management is about to be knocked over in the rush.
Sources say the voluntary redundancy offer will be oversubscribed. That is, Fairfax should comfortably meet its target of reducing 125 jobs, thereby saving $30 million from a metro-media cost base of $130 million.
These figures are not exact – names and numbers are yet to be confirmed – but 10 journalists from the 125 target are said to have left already and another 58 from The Age and 58 from the Sydney Morning Herald are likely to fill in their redundancy forms and head off into the mainstream media sunset. The rush is greater at the Sydney Morning Herald than The Age
Those leaving are rumoured to include a retinue of senior reporting figures. Some of these were named in an earlier version of this story. We subsequently removed the list after complaints by a union rep and on the basis that the company is yet to decide which redundancy applications to accept and which to reject.
The union figure said as the names had not been confirmed and some journalists were still discussing their future with Fairfax management or alternative employers, that our story was causing personal distress.
Further to the cost cuts, outside contributors such as opinion writers who are not “on-staff” may be forced to accept pay cuts. Another aspect of the cost cuts involves bolstering digital output by using young, underpaid reporters who work for Huffington Post, with whom Fairfax has a joint venture.
Management and editorial bosses are not expected to take any pay cuts and are likely to be rewarded for making staff cuts under the key performance indicators (KPIs) or cost targets in their salary deals. The Fairfax strategy of employing young reporters on low wages and a handful of “brand-name” journalists such as Ross Gittins, Kate McClymont, Peter Fitzsimons, Adele Ferguson and Peter Hartcher will continue.
Whichever way you cut it, the exodus of experienced journalists represents another brain-drain for the once venerable newspaper empire. Head of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Paul Murphy, told the Senate committee investigating public interest journalism the week before last that Fairfax has spent almost half a billion dollars on redundancies and, in the broader media, some 2,500 journalism jobs had vanished over the past ten years.
Sources said yesterday that some journalists accepting the offer were concerned their entitlements might not be honoured by new management should the Fairfax board accept a takeover bid from private equity. Two bids from US private equity groups for Fairfax are now on the table: one from aggressive vulture fund TPG and another from Hellman & Friedman.
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