Proposed editorial management changes to Fairfax Media’s regional newspapers will result in a decline in quality according to the Illawarra Mercury’s Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance House President Andy Zakeli.
The proposed changes would result in the loss of 20 full-time and 5 part-time jobs in Illawarra newsrooms as the organisation moves to relocate sub-editing positions to New Zealand. Affected newspapers include The Illawarra Mercury, Kiama Independent and Lake Times.
Zakeli told The Current he didn’t understand why the positions were being moved overseas as there will “definitely be a decline in quality.”
“Offshoring isn’t a logical point of view. Local expertise is always best in newsrooms,” Zakeli said.
In 2011 Fairfax moved sub-editing positions from The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age to Pagemasters, which is a subsidiary of Australian Associated Press (AAP).
Zakeli said he was concerned more sub-editing positions will be cut in the future and although employees were aware more changes were coming he isn’t happy with the way Fairfax has handled it.
“We knew there would be job cuts but they could have gone about it differently,” Zakeli said.
Employees in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle will stop work this afternoon in a bid to gain more information about the plans.
The MEAA has tabled an alternative to the current proposals, although they concede the plans are more or less set to go ahead.
The MEAA will be involved in consultations with Fairfax until next Tuesday, but it is understood that many of those who will be affected have been left in the dark regarding their futures.
Staff will be offered voluntary redundancies and there will be redeployment opportunities, however there are expected to be a number of forced redundancies.
The concerns echo those of the MEAA’s Federal Secretary Chris Warren, who said in a statement yesterday: “This is a very dangerous step for Fairfax to be taking.”
“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,” said Warren.
Words by Ewen McCarroll
Photos by Nizza Munoz
Video by Ashley Mumford