Will journalism become a sea of weightless bylines?

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 18 May 2016
Cadet Journalist, Lindsay Bennett

The Fairfax transition from daily print to mostly digital will inevitably have some casualties, but I can't help but wonder whether the publisher will end up with an irreversible experience gap as a slew of senior journalists exit the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

Some senior journalists are being told their “skill set is not aligned” to the publisher’s new strategy.

But what strategy is that and what skills are more important in journalism than experience?

These are questions that Fairfax Media boss Greg Hywood needs to explain, not just to his own employees, but the wider market, which will be looking at how the cuts affect output and the effect this has on the strength of the Australian media.

Also, the knock on effect and commercial model it can support. A business can only be as strong as its product and a publisher's core product is its content.

While it's important to note that are many top, experienced journalists are still at the business, including the likes of Kate McClymont, Nick McKenzie and Adele Ferguson, the exit of several seasoned reporters can only affect the quality of the newspapers' output.

Would a luxury car manufacturer in a similar cost-cutting mode get rid of its senior engineers, or look to elsewhere to save cost?

As Fairfax transitions into the digital age, sources close to the moves say less experienced journalists are being prioritised over senior positions, as their skills better align with those required of the transitioning business.

And when Fairfax shuts down its Monday to Friday editions, it is predicted 40% of the newsroom is expected to be trimmed – leading to further redundancies and loss of experience.

As a young reporter, this saddens me as I've grown up reading the Sydney Morning Herald.

I also can’t help but question what will happen to the next generation of reporters without senior mentors to show them ropes and inspire them to produce better work.

If editors don’t support journalists to write about the pointy issues, instead focusing on click-friendly content, I worry we could end up a sea of weightless bylines.

I’m told the younger generation of Fairfax employees are excited by the future, and so they should be. It’s their time to shine and they've worked hard to earn the opportunity.

I hope and am optimistic that quality remains the key focus, rather than clickrates – one of the most misleading measurements of journalistic success.

Fairfax has previously been instrumental in exposing corruption in the oil industry, Commonwealth Bank's financial planning scandal and organised crime in the construction industry.

That's the journalism Australia needs more of, rather than articles about Shane Warne's latest tiff with a TV presenter or Lara Bingle's pregnancy rumours.


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