World press freedom day: not a good day for Australian journalists

0 Posted by - 03/05/2017 - News

By Gus McCubbing | @GusMcCubbing

 

Journalists at both The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald will go on strike for seven days, in response to Fairfax Media’s decision to axe 115 jobs.  

In a turn of events ironically taking place on World Press Freedom Day, the week-long strike means that participating journalists will miss the budget lock-up next week.

For Lisa Visentin, a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald, this will mark her third strike in response to job cuts in as many years.

 

Fairfax Media journalist, Lisa Visentin, is one of many taking part in the seven day strike

 

While Ms Visentin and other Fairfax journalists had been informed there would be a $30 million cut from the newsroom, they had been waiting to find out exactly how many jobs would be axed.

“They’re telling us that this is the last one, that this will will move us to a sustainable model, but proportionally, it’s the biggest number of job cuts that the SMH has ever had,” she said.

“It’s very depressing.”

The job cuts will hit journalists, videographers, staff writers and editors, and it is understood that Fairfax Media has targeted sections, meaning that people who cover entertainment, music, books and art will be heavily in the firing line.

Fairfax Media will open a voluntary redundancy period tomorrow, but the pain for journalists won’t end there, Ms Visentin said.  

“When they inevitably don’t enough people for that, we’re going to start getting forced redundancies,” she said.

“The Herald has had successive rounds of job cuts over the years, but last year was the first time they had forced redundancies, and it’s looking like that’s going to happen again, in a bigger number.

“It’s going to be a disruptive and stressful time in the newsroom as people get tapped on the shoulder and told they no longer have a job.”

Ms Visentin said these job cuts will inevitably impact the quality of the journalism produced by The Age and the SMH.

“You simply can’t maintain the standard when you’re haemorrhaging staff the way we have been over the past couple of years,” she said.

“It also means that the same number of people will have to do more with less.”

Ms Visentin also said the decision to go on strike for seven days was not something reached lightly, the effect it have upon Fairfax Media’s reporting on the budget.   

“We obviously realise when we do that that we turn off a tap to a quality source of coverage for the budget for many Australians, because our coverage would obviously be broadcast across the SMH, The Age and all our satellite sites,” she said.

“But we figured that it’s such a substantial cut that this is kind of the new normal, that you’re going to be seeing a decrease in quality journalism, so we have to make that point.

“It was one of the big power-plays that we had in our arsenal, because we’ve been through a similar staff cut last year, but the thing that made it different this year was that we had the budget looming.”

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