The CEO of Fairfax Media, Greg Hywood, has gone on the front foot and defended the publisher's decision to further cut editorial roles, penning a letter asking for the “myth” that the cuts pose a dire threat to quality journalism to be put to bed.
Published over the weekend, the letter outlines that even in the days of the "rivers of gold", when both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were benefiting from monopolies they held over the classifieds market, both papers thrived with less staff.
One of the main criticisms of the cuts centred around the fact that by cutting more jobs from the newsroom, the quality of the publisher's publications would decrease. This is one of the points Hywood was keen to rebut saying: “Since when has quantity got to do with quality?”
Hywood explained that in 1968 The SMH had approximately 75 staff, with The Age having less. He added that now across The SMH, The Age and the Financial Review “Fairfax employs in excess of 520 reporters and more than 700 journalists in total.”
“So let's put to bed the myth that as Fairfax reshapes its publishing model to respond to a very different set of industry economics, and yes, adjusts its staffing levels accordingly, there is some dire threat to quality journalism,” he added.
Earlier this month the publisher announced it was set to axe 120 jobs from The SMH, The Age and The AFR. The move sparked strikes and even an online petition to save the jobs, which garnered some 26,000 signatures.
Hywood also outlined that the publisher knows that of the 9000 stories it publishes a month a "substantial portion" are read by only a "handful of people". So in knowing that the business is being positioned to give readers what they want and are prepared to click on. However he added, that this in no way means quality will suffer.
“Make no mistake - as we reshape our business to meet readers demands we will not take a backward step on quality and we will not back away from tackling the tough issues,” he says.
“I am prepared to bet that in another five years time we will still be Australia's leading publisher. Let's check back in then.”
You can read Hywood's full letter here.
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