FAIRFAX. THE LONG GOODBYE
Today the world’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart rachets up the pressure on Fairfax Media.
Her company HPPL (Hancock Prospecting) styles her as a ‘White Knight’ engaged in an heroic a bid to save the ailing media company from oblivion.
Others see her more as an Avenging Queen with a large and dangerous axe to grind on the topic of climate change.
In a statement sent to the ABC, HPPL said: ”She remains concerned by the lack of understanding in the media on this issue.
”To lessen the fear the media have caused over these issues, Mrs Rinehart suggests that the media should also permit to be published that climate change has been occurring naturally since the Earth began, not just the views of the climate extremists.”
The statement singled out climate sceptics Ian Plimer, a geologist, and Andrew Bolt, a News Ltd commentator for special praise.
”Mrs Rinehart admires people like Ian Plimer who have independently chosen on their own accord to stand up against this tidal wave, which has caused fear, and despite substantial attacks by some of the media and extremists for so doing.”
Mrs Rinehart, now as Fairfax Media’s largest shareholder, owns 19 per cent of the company, wants two seats on the board and the right to have a say in the editorial direction of the company’s masthead newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Today she has threatened that unless she gets what she wants, she is prepared to sell her shares and consider repurchasing them at another time. ie: She is not going away.
This, on top of the resignations yesterday of The Age editor Paul Ramadge, his counterpart and publisher at The Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Fray, and Sydney Morning Herald editor Amanda Wilson.
Today we re-visit the events of last week when Fairfax slashed 1,900 jobs in its bid to restructure, as told by Alan Kennedy…
I know where I was when I heard President Kennedy was dead.
I know where I was the day John Lennon died. And I will remember how I heard yesterday that my beloved Fairfax, a company where I worked for 19 years after a lifetime of wanting to, was put on life support.
Around its bed are not the grieving relatives. We have either been pushed out the door or are about to be. In our place are the spivs and urgers who have brought about the company’s demise. While they look anxiously at the ventilator, they fight over the will, hacking off bits and pieces before they, too, head for the exits, declaring they have done all they could to save the patient.
They will leave behind a carcass, unloved and unwanted.
Don’t be fooled by the mouth boogie. Yesterday’s announcement that Fairfax was to slash 1900 jobs over three years and close its printing presses was a knife to the heart of great journalism in this country.
The current management geniuses at Fairfax will say it differently, but we know, don’t we?
Every journalist job that goes is another layer of quality peeled away. A Fairfax behind paywalls will be exposed as plainly as the Wizard of Oz was when Toto ran behind the curtain and showed he was just a pathetic old man. Dorothy and Toto got back home, but lovers of good journalism and the role a rambunctious free press plays know we aren’t in Kansas and we don’t have our red shoes any more. They were chucked away three staff cleanouts ago.
At the bedside, occasionally we see flashes of the ghosts of the past.
Old management who grew fat on the body while it still had some flesh on its bones, while never showing they had any clue or even curiosity about saving Fairfax.
Is that Fred Hilmer with Mark Scott? I remember the night Hilmer left with a $4 million bonus in his kick. I remember because we all feasted on high-quality sushi and sashimi that was going cheap in the canteen. It was to have been part of the food served at a lavish, bang-up beano down on the executive floor, but this was called off after some of us let it be known we might turn up to give Freddo our own special farewell. What amused us as we ate our sushi was that two minutes after we’d made our threat, we promptly forgot about it, but management didn’t.
So Fred was sent on his way with his money but no brass band, streamers or sushi.
Hilmer is now running one of Australia’s major universities, while Mark Scott is in charge of the ABC. To me, the ABC sounds just like the radio arm of News Ltd. But maybe that’s just me.
At the time of the management idiocy, the Fairfax board was remarkable for not having any media people on it. Fred described us as “content providers” for advertising platform. When he visited the news floor and was asked what this meant, he took umbrage and left, never to return.
Fred and his mob also decided that maybe the names The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were “old media”, and so more than a century and a half of hard-won brand identity was to be pissed up against the wall. It was like Coca-Cola deciding that the name was a bit old school and they were going to relaunch as The Black Drink.
The media-blind board just copped the message that all journalists were bastards and the culture must change, and they embarked on a strategy summed up best as “the floggings will continue until morale improves”.
As journalists and members of the house committee, we would fly the truce flag and say let’s talk about the future directions of the company.
Let’s look at ways of integrating the newspaper and internet in a 24-hour news cycle, with one feeding off the other: internet during the day, breaking news and promising extensive coverage in the newspaper the next day.
Instead, a digital cancer called F2 was put inside the company and ran like a government in exile. Its main aim appeared to be to have as little contact with the editorial part of the paper as possible. Rather than create a merging of print and digital, the dream seemed to be a non-union workforce. But we recruited them as fast as they came on board.
|Page 1 of 2||next >>|