I feel like I should write something intelligent about Fairfax’s announcement that 1900 people will get the boot over the next three years.
But you know me, so I don’t know how intelligent it will be.
There are, however, some things that are worth pointing out here.
1. Yes, this makes me sound naive, but how smart is it to sack the people who create the product – the journalists and the printers – but to keep the sales people and management who clearly aren’t very good at their jobs? Declining ad revenue and mismanagement got Fairfax into this situation, but no, let’s make sure those people stay with the company.
2. Between now and 2014, will Fairfax be re-training workers at the Chullora and Tullamarine printing plants? Can the company be forced to do this?
3. The freelance market is already filled with good journalists, good writers, bad journalists, bad writers, and lots and lots and lots of people who accept low rates of pay because they need the money. This is a massive win for publishers because they can get away with offering fuck-all money and they don’t have to pay super or sick leave or holiday leave. Unless you’re already a big-name writer, or you’re willing to write so much soul-destroying advertorial that there’s no time to work on anything else, then it’s almost impossible to make a living this way, let alone a decent one. And News Ltd is rumoured to be sacking 1500 people very soon, so it’s not going to be pretty.
4. When news is free at the ABC (that should be their slogan), it just doesn’t make sense to think that paywalls are the answer. Particularly when most of your content during the day comes from wire services. You need to get people hooked on your product by the time you put up that paywall, not have them shrug and just go to the ABC.
5. The other problem with paywalls is that no one is doing online journalism well in Australia. No one. Both News and Fairfax clearly think online news just means putting your print stories on a website (Nguyen (2008) calls this “new bottles with old wine” but I call it “painting shit silver”), and that including a video of exactly the same story adds multimedia value. It doesn’t. It’s just shit. And most days it’s not even painted silver.
6. The Government has bailed out Holden and Ford (and even BlueScope Steel got $100 million). We import cars so it doesn’t matter all that much if we don’t make them here. It does, however, matter a great deal if we don’t make our own news here. I’m not going to argue that jobs are sacred. They’re not. What I’m asking is, why does an industry that creates a product we import deserve public funding when it’s in trouble but an industry that, for all its faults, is key to our democracy, does not?
7. Journalism is important. Newspapers are not.
Nguyen, A (2008), ‘Facing the “Fabulous Monster”: The traditional media’s fear-driven innovation culture in the development of online news’, Journalism Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 91-104.