Fairfax Media flags changes at regional titles

FAIRFAX Media is proposing changes to editorial production arrangements at the Newcastle Herald and associated weekly community newspapers as part of a company strategy to pursue operational efficiencies.

After a review of workflows and business requirements, Fairfax Media announced yesterday a proposal to relocate editorial production for the Herald, Newcastle Star, Port Stephens Examiner, Lakes Mail and Myall Coast Nota to Fairfax Editorial Services (FES) in New Zealand.

FES currently produces nine dailies, two Sunday papers and 67 community papers.

Under the proposal, 36 full-time equivalent staff, comprising 41 full-time and part-time positions, would be made redundant from the group of Newcastle titles. No reporting or photographic positions would be affected and the Herald would continue to operate the largest newsroom in the region. The Herald (theherald.com) is the top-ranked website in the Fairfax Regional Digital Media network of 160 websites, recording 3.2 million page impressions in April. A similar proposal was announced yesterday for the Illawarra Mercury and its associated weekly titles.

Fairfax Media’s metropolitan division made changes to its editorial production arrangements last year.

Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood said the proposed regional changes would position the company to better take advantage of digital opportunities.

‘‘While the proposed changes would necessarily have a substantial impact on our people, we are determined to deliver on the transformation of our business,’’ Mr Hywood said.

Fairfax Regional Media chief executive and publisher Allan Browne said the proposal reflected a key aspect of the company program to focus on growing audiences and building revenue through content creation and advertising sales.

“Our industry is in a period of immense transition and we need to be willing to do things differently in our businesses,” he said.

“Our newsrooms need to be in the best position possible to efficiently provide content across platforms, whether it is in print, web, mobile or in other media.

“To do that, we have to optimise our operations. We believe that will ensure our publishing and media businesses remain the news sources of choice in the communities they serve.”

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance issued a statement last night rejecting the company’s proposals.

“There has been no experience in Australia of companies making the decision to offshore such a central part of the newspaper and this can only destroy the vital nexus between the newsroom and the community,” alliance federal secretary Chris Warren said.

“Newspapers are not just the product of photographers or journalists – sub-editors are the heart of the newsroom, with vast institutional and organisational memories, and an intimate knowledge of their community.

“It is our belief that the entire staff should always be embedded in the community to enable the newspaper to tell the local story accurately.”

Management is consulting with affected employees and the union about the proposed changes.

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