Media Alliance slams Fairfax for ‘near-sighted’ job cuts & ‘customer contempt’

June 11, 2012

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance released the statement below on June 12.

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The Media Alliance condemns today’s decision by Fairfax Regional Media to proceed with the offshoring of production jobs at its regional community newspapers including the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury. The company’s decision to send local community jobs to New Zealand comes despite a significant public backlash and a Media Alliance solution that would have kept jobs in Australia.

Negotiations held today between the Media Alliance and Fairfax Regional Media have collapsed after Fairfax informed the Alliance that it was proceeding with its original plan to offshore the positions to New Zealand.

Fairfax has ignored its readers and instead has taken the axe to two great newspapers with proud histories of more than 150 years of service to their communities.

Media Alliance acting federal secretary Paul Murphy said: “The decision Fairfax has made today is near-sighted and wrong. Fairfax management have shown they lack the vision needed to reposition the company in a multi-platform world — a vision their staff have demonstrated in spades over the past fortnight and in the alternative proposal they put forward.”

Last week, the Media Alliance put a proposal to the company recommending the creation of a multi-platform sub editing and production hub.

Murphy said: “Our sub-hub proposal would enable skilled subeditors to remain embedded within the community while delivering Fairfax the very cost savings it seeks by offshoring. The proposal preserved the essential quality of the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury — their ability to give voice to the concerns of the communities they are part of.”

The sub hub proposal would have reduced the number of journalists previously seen as necessary in stand-alone newsroom structures from about 60 staff to 40. Given the local knowledge and expertise of existing staff, it would be possible to operate in Newcastle and Wollongong with fewer staff numbers than the company’s flawed New Zealand scheme.

The commitment and engagement with the communities of the Hunter and the Illawarra depends on journalists embedded in and understanding those communities.

A geographic base maintained in Newcastle and Wollongong would ensure this connection was maintained.

The Media Alliance proposal was considerably more economically thrifty when compared to Fairfax Regional Media’s offshoring scheme, as it requires less staff and removes the additional cost of recruitment and redeployment.

“There is no logic to the announcement the company has made today,” Murphy said. “Last week, the company issued a document about Fairfax values. I shudder to think how much management consultants were paid to come up with it.

“One of the values was ‘customer centricity’. Presumably that means the company is looking for an increased focus on what their readers want. Well, the readers of the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury have made it clear that they want their local papers produced locally. Fairfax Media has ignored its customers.

“That isn’t “customer centricity”… it’s customer contempt. The company seems to think it can rip the heart out of these papers without consequences.”

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