Diet needed for some in “lean and agile” Fairfax

It’s pretty common knowledge within the media that newspapers are struggling to stay afloat in much of the western world – a phenomena blamed mostly on the internet being more attractive as a news source these days, and classifieds migrating to sites like TradeMe.

New Zealand is a wee bit behind this trend according to Jim Tucker – but nonetheless, even here there are signs of a downturn – and in August Fairfax announced job cuts of 550 across Australia and New Zealand. 

Fairfax Media is shedding about 160 jobs in New Zealand as part of a group move to cut costs and be “lean and agile” in the modern media world.

Fairfax Media have just released their annual report, and Chief Executive Officer David Kirk says:

With the new organisation structure in place and line management operating effectively now is the time to launch a third wave of business improvement. Fairfax Media needs to continue to adapt as media markets here and around the world change. This farreaching program will position us well for the next stage of our growth and development.

Fairfax Media is in excellent shape. Our strategy of diversification and growth has enabled us to meet the challenges we face, and to ensure an even more robust future. I appreciate the support given by the Board for me and my executive team.

And what support it is indeed – Mr Kirk was paid $3.41 million in salary, bonuses, superannuation and shares for the last financial year – that’s a 24% pay increase from the year before.

Fairfax Australia CEO Brian McCarthy was paid $2.43 million, with Fairfax New Zealand CEO Joan Withers picking up a mere $0.74 million.

If I was a Fairfax journo worried about losing my job, I think I’d be talking to my manager about what “lean and agile” meant, and whether paying such high salaries to bosses while leaking staff was likely to improve the quality of reporting.

Michael Gawenda, ex-editor of the Melbourne Age from 1997, has some interesting things to say about how Fairfax have handled changes to the media and newspapers in particular.

Fairfax was not the only newspaper company – at which senior management and the company board, invariably, contained not a single person with newspaper experience – to junk the history and the traditions of newspapers and journalism, but it was one of the first to do so, certainly in Australia.

And all the while board members and senior managers publicly proclaimed their commitment to quality journalism. And obsessed over the share price and what the next lot of prophecy from media analysts might mean for their futures.

Our newspapers are getting smaller and smaller, the numbers of journalists working for them decreasing too.  Can we get everything we need online?  Do we get ‘better’ news outside mainstream media anyway?  Ideas welcome.

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One thought on “Diet needed for some in “lean and agile” Fairfax

  1. Basically, I find I use a lot of sources on and offline, local and overseas, but everything has it’s limitations.

    I do get quite a bit of news online, but also from the radio (mainly Nat Rad) and TV. I’ve pretty much given up on the NZ Herald online as it has become so annoyingly a cheerleader for the National Party with its front page news.

    Often other online sources are some reasonable overseas papers. Otherwise, blogs provide commentary. TV is diversifying: watch Al Jazeera in the morning, some other (overseas) news on Triangle and some stuff on TVNZ 7. Some non-primetime progs like Agenda)

    Also too much superficial sensationalism, often leading to right wing slants, on primetime TV News.

    (I’m irritated at this right now. Some guy touted as an expert giving us financial advice in difficult times was on Close Up tonight. He started on about how the future would be better under key as he would cut government spending. he suggested cutting things like DHB’s The Women’s Affairs’ Dpt. etc etc – I switched off).

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