News Corp cuts costs, axes photographers and sub editors

Lindsay Bennett and Arvind Hickman
News Corp CEO Michael Miller at the Come Together event 2016

News Corp is axing jobs across its editorial teams in an attempt to "streamline" its operations and "create more contemporary, efficient and cost-effective" newsrooms. 

According to The Guardian, those most impacted by the cuts are the publisher's photographers and sub editors.

News Corp director of editorial management Campbell Reid says the restructure of the traditional newsroom was needed to “preserve in print and excel in digital”.

"These changes are necessary to achieve the balance of resourcing between content creation, content production and digital excellence," Reid said.

“Like every other business today, we have to identify opportunities to improve and modernise the way we work to become more efficient. We need to organise our editorial operations so we can preserve in print and excel in digital. This requires a new approach to long-standing newsroom processes."

Under strain

The cuts come after News Corp posted a second quarter loss of $287 million in February, citing the Australian newspaper business as a key factor. 

Last year, newspaper media agency bookings in Australia slumped by 7.1% to $504 million, according to SMI figures, illustrating the challenges print mastheads face to remain profitable in a declining ad market. This round of cuts follows further cost-cutting initiatives announced in December in a bid to save $40 million.

Rival Fairfax also announced this month it would axe more journalist jobs to save $30 million.

Trimming tabloids

The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and the Courier Mail are reported to be taking the brunt of the cuts this time around and could lose dozens of staff each – although the company is not revealing the total number of job losses.

The changes include moving from an in-house photographic model to a "hybrid model", consisting of a core team of photographic specialists, complemented by freelance and agency talent.

The mastheads will replace much of their in-house permanent photographers with a core group of permanent staff and more freelancers and casual photographers.

This model reduces overheads but it remains to be seen whether it will mean fewer snappers will be on site to capture key news moments as they happen.

The company also forecast changes to its print production processes that News says will simplify in-house production and maximise the use of available print technology for print production.

Slashing sub editor desks has been a common trend across the media industry for several years as more content is transitioned to online news websites. 

Media executives, under pressure to curtail costs, have held the belief that senior editorial staff will be able to pick up the slack of highly skilled sub editors with little reduction in quality. In reality, this has led to more errors appearing online than typically would appear in print.

Reid says the changes made to its photography and production processes will not compromise News Corp's commitment to print.

“Our core franchise is journalism and we will always protect and preserve that. These changes do not diminish our commitment to quality nor our faith in the long-term future of all our publishing platforms," she says.

"At a time when trusted, credible news content is paramount, we must ensure our contemporary newsrooms are shaped to deliver the news, analysis, features and services that match modern reader needs, whether in print, digital, on mobile, or in video or audio.”

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