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Fairfax cut 120 editorial jobs, staff go on strike in protest

In deeply troubling news for the nation’s premier mastheads, including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, AFR and others, the equivalent of 120 jobs – or around a fifth of full-time staff – are set to be cut from Fairfax Media.

Fairfax journalists across different businesses and mastheads are agreeing to strike – SMH journalists voted 115-3 to strike until Monday, which notably includes the major Saturday newspaper and the Friday daily.

The journos took to social media to implore people to ignore Fairfax’s offerings while editorial staff went on strike.

Interestingly, the Careers at Fairfax site has 100 jobs currently listed, eight of which were listed today, the oldest having been posted on March 2. That figure includes roles outside editorial.

Since the announcement, shares in Fairfax have gone up five per cent, as the vagaries of sharemarkets became clear to some and baffling to others.

Fairfax editorial leaders have attempted to explain that “a savings target equated to the $$ value of 120 jobs has been announced”, which is the equivalent of 120 full-time jobs, but may not mean 120 positions are actually lost.

Perhaps it’s semantics, but the problems remain. Print revenue is shrinking; digital revenues aren’t replacing them. Paying for full-time journalists out on the ground is expensive, difficult, and doesn’t always result in more clicks or more papers sold.

There is no question though: cutting editorial jobs will lower quantity and quality of reportage.

Update: An email from Fairfax editorial director Sean Aylmer addressed to staff included the following:

“We will shortly enter a consultation period with staff and the MEAA on a proposal to reduce costs across News and Business in the Sydney and Melbourne newsrooms by the equivalent of 120 full-time employees.

“We believe that we can do this through redundancies, tightening contributor budgets and reducing travel costs and expenses….

“While we are much more efficient in producing quality journalism, we still have a way to go.

“Change is a permanent part of our industry. It is a reflection of what we know about the ways our readers are consuming our stories. We must continue to evolve with them.”

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