Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Age kicks out staff

Fairfax media, owner of The Age, announced the sacking of 550 people – 390 in Australia, 160 in New Zealand. About 90 journalists will have to clear their desks.

The announcement came just eleven days after The Age proudly printed: “Today we are able to report on our quarterly circulation and readership figures, which are among the best The Age has ever recorded.” On the Monday to Friday level, The Age announced an increase of 3,000 or 0.4% compared with the June 2007 figures, The Saturday Age was up 0.5%, only The Sunday Age registered a drop of 3,000 readers.

In terms of money, The Age of 22nd August announced a net profit of $386,900,000 (+ 47%), revenue $2,900,000,000 (+34%).

These figures are just rubbish when it comes to real profit: “Fairfax Media’s pledge to scrap 5% of its staff within three months was rewarded with a 5% jump in the publisher’s battered share price.” (The article was published on 27th August only in the printed version of The Age, I did not find it online.) Good for the author who confessed he owns Fairfax Media shares. The sacking of 550 staff will bring Fairfax media an extra revenue of $50,000,000 and the shareholders a higher value in shares.

Today’s Age had problems explaining the jubilant figures the paper published last week: “What has happened in the intervening five days?”, asks Mathew Ricketson. He has difficulties finding an answer: “It is not at all clear. Fairfax media, as I wrote last week after the results announcement, has been trying for years to navigate its way through the gradual dismantling of the business model that has sustained newspapers for well over 100 years.” And then he continues a swan song on the printed media, that totally contradicts the bright outlook The Age itself distributed on 15th August 2008.

The self-praise was then written by Andrew Jaspan, The Age’s editor-in chief.

It seems, he became the first redundancy: The Age sacked its editor-in chief on Wednesday morning.

“In a note to staff, Mr Churchill said the company had ‘decided that for this next critical stage of The Age we would have fresh editorial and executive leadership’.

"’The editorial leadership team have my highest confidence. I know they will excel in leading the editorial staff of The Age to ensure The Age's continuing success,’ the note to staff said.”

The Murdoch paper MX commented: "Age sacks editor - one down, just 389 to go".

I have often had reason to complain about the lack of quality journalism in The Age. The new development does not instil confidence that there is a chance for an improvement. With less editorial staff it must be feared that journalists will have less time to do a proper research and in-depth reporting.

We can only be sure that the fierce republican attitude of The Age will remain. And the paper's outlook into a bright republican future has as much credibility as the stories on The Age's success.

No comments: