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Give us a fair go, Fairfax

3 May 2017

An hour before I found out about Fairfax’s latest job cuts, I was perusing the University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism in the handbook.

The website acknowledges that media has become a challenging industry. However, it also urges young people that the changing nature of journalism will create new types of jobs, innovation and creativity.

Yet, Australian media giants such as Fairfax Media continue to cut vital editorial jobs that for decades have provided our nation with stories that have an impact.

Isn’t that the point of journalism? Shouldn’t journalism tell stories that make us stop and think?

How can journalism and story telling continue to hold a place in our democracy if some of our biggest media employers continue to cut editorial jobs?

Fairfax’s job cuts are designed to save $30 million. Jobs from The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald will be slashed. The equivalent of 125 full-time editorial positions will disappear in an effort to keep Fairfax afloat.

My question to Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood is simple. How can you expect to turn Fairfax Media into a profitable business if your newsrooms are becoming smaller and smaller each year?

I simply cannot fathom how cutting 125 editorial positions will improve Fairfax’s business prospects in the future.

It seems Fairfax have not learnt from their mistakes. Cutting jobs is a short-term fix.

Ultimately, it is the quality of Fairfax’s journalism, its ability to think ahead of the current media landscape and its innovation in a tough industry that will determine whether their business thrives in the future.
Greg, instead of cutting full-time editorial jobs, have you ever thought about investing in the future of journalism? Have you thought about really trying to have an impact on Australian media by breaking through this tough period with a strong, profitable business model that still encourages quality journalism?

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has, as expected, condemned the decision.

CEO of the MEAA Paul Murphy said: “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”.

“Independent and fearless journalism that holds power to account requires investment and support from management. These cuts are a short-sighted measure that undermine the journalism readers want and expect from these mastheads.”

Journalism plays a vital part in creating a well-informed society. It helps to keep politicians, big businesses and public servants honest.

In my opinion, one of journalism’s most important functions is giving a voice to those who do not have the means to communicate their stories to the public.

That is why I want to be a journalist.

In the hours following the decision, #fairgofairfax was trending on Twitter.

Shortly after, journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age announced they would be going on strike for a week, which raises questions over Fairfax’s coverage of the Federal Budget next week.

While many aspects of the world’s current media landscape fills me with hope, Fairfax Media constantly lets me down.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for many of the fantastic stories Fairfax has told over the years and the fact that it has provided minorities with a platform to voice their stories.

But how can it continue to do this if it keeps cutting editorial jobs?

Just by looking at The Age’s front page, it is clear Fairfax are pushing for ‘clicks’ over quality.

Headlines such as Five lessons from the man who will soon be the richest in the world and What the stars wore to the after-parties show Fairfax’s fascination with attracting clicks and advertisers.

This approach will fail.

I plead to the CEO of Fairfax, Greg Hywood, and other directors on the Fairfax board to invest in journalism.

Invest in the future of media. Find creative solutions and innovative ways to report the news.

We have known for years now that people do not want to pay for news. While some media organisations thrive (think VICE, New York Times, BBC) Fairfax has constantly been slow to react.

Greg, try and change the game. Invest, create and help Australian media flourish.

Give us a fair go, Fairfax.

Sincerely,

Sean Wales.


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