By Sheraz Akbar & Izhar Mehmood
Journalists at Fairfax Media striked for a week following the company’s decision to cut a quarter of the remaining journalists at its major Australian newspapers.
Staff at the Brisbane Times, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Wednesday walked off the job for a week to protest against the decision to axe 125 jobs in an effort to save $30 million.
The journalists were on strike for seven days from Wednesday – a stoppage that included the Federal Budget on May 9. Devastated journalists also took to social media to condemn the cuts.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance slammed the move, saying it is “appalled” and the decision will weaken Fairfax’s business.
“None of the other parts of the Fairfax business are worth anything without the journalism and yet it is the journalism that Fairfax always cuts,” MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said. “This is a dumb decision.”
Fairfax is a news publishing company which runs two major papers out of Sydney (SMH) and Melbourne (The Age), as well as the nationally run Australian Financial Review. The SMH is the New York Times of Australia – it is generally considered the biggest and most ‘prestigious’ paper in the country.
A Fairfax Media spokesman said the mastheads would publish as usual during the strike action. “We are disappointed in the decision by some of our masthead journalists to take unprotected industrial action for seven days after a month-long consultation period about necessary changes in our Metro Media business,” said the spokesman.
“We will continue to publish across print and digital as usual.”
Lisa Visentin, a journalist at Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) says this is the third strike they’ve been on in three years since she started working at the (SMH). It is the third round of job cuts that they’ve had, and they’re telling us that ‘this was the last one’.
“It’s the biggest number of job cuts that the paper has ever had so it’s very depressing.”
Lisa said that they’ve flagged that there would be a $30 million cut from the newsroom, so they’ve just been waiting to find out exactly in job terms what that would be. Some 115 jobs were basically what’s on the line. Journalists, videographers, staff writers, editors are the obvious victim.
The Herald has had successive rounds of job cuts over the years, but since last year it was the first time they had forced redundancies, and it’s looking like that’s going to happen again, in a bigger number.
“It’s going to be a disruptive and stressful time in the newsroom as people get tapped on the shoulder and told they no longer have a job,” added Lisa. “I think every round of job cuts affects our ability to deliver the same standard of product we put out.”
Lisa affirmed that one simply can’t maintain the standard when he/she is being hemorrhaged the way they have been over the past couple of years. It also means that the same number of people will have to do more with less and inevitably that will have an impact on quality.
Job cuts in Media is not only Australia’s problem but journalists in Pakistan are in the same quandary while working with different media organizations.
Mashriq TV, a local Pashto News channel, have sacked 20 members of staff from Peshawar center and 23 from Islamabad center in past few months. The sacked staff include journalists and other technical and staff.
Similarly, Express Tribune, a national English newspaper has sacked more than 40 journalists from different city bureaus in the name of downsizing. The remaining ones are also, according to a journalist in the same organization, in the state of uncertainty and as to which moment of the day they will get a phone call from their management telling them: “you’re fired.”
Contribution from Australia Jack Price, Gus McCubbing & Angus McCubbing
Some information for this story have been taken/copied from two news stories of following two Australian websites:
(abc.net.au) and (smh.com.au)
Photo courtesy: europeanjournalists.org, cheatsheet.com & europeanjournalists.org