IFJ Fears for Quality Journalism in Australia as Journalists Axed

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned that quality journalism in Australia is being seriously undermined as corporate cutbacks bite hard into a major national newspaper group known for its influential mastheads.

Fairfax Media, which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne’s The Age, The Australian Financial Review and regional weeklies, announced on August 25 that it would cut 550 jobs - about 8 to 10 per cent of the workforce - including more than 120 journalists.

On August 27, the editor of The Age, Andrew Jaspan, was sacked.

The cuts are the third round of major job-shedding at Fairfax in four years.

News reports also said Fairfax planned to outsource much of its editorial production to an external agency, further raising concerns about quality control at Fairfax papers.

“Fairfax seems prepared to abandon its hard-earned good reputation for quality newspapers,” said Christopher Warren, Federal Secretary of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance and a member of the IFJ’s executive committee.

“The job cuts inevitably will lead to a loss of quality at Fairfax newspapers when quality has never been so important.”

Members of the Alliance, an IFJ affiliate, have voiced their concerns that the integrity and public service value of Fairfax newspapers will suffer as corporate media managers take a short-term view and adopt a low-cost, low-quality approach to financial management rather than employing innovative ways of maintaining audiences, advertising revenues and high-quality output.

“All indications are that cost-cutting has been a disaster for mainstream news media companies around the world, forcing them into a vicious downward spiral,” Warren said.

“Managed well, the new technology being used in newsrooms could herald a golden age of journalism as new tools being developed almost every day allow journalists to tell their stories in new and exciting ways. But it will take vision and guts on the part of news executives.”

The IFJ joins the Alliance in calling on Fairfax and other media owners to recognise the need to continue to invest in quality journalism that serves the public interest. Without this investment, highly regarded media houses will lose credibility, and journalism and the public at large will suffer for it, they said.

The IFJ also encourages its affiliates and other defenders of press freedom and quality journalism to sign a petition at www.fairgofairfax.org.au/petition/ to show support for Fairfax journalists and quality media in Australia.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 in 122 countries worldwide