Hire Wire Jun 25 2012

Australia's Fairfax Media Cuts Jobs, Editors Leave

By Gavin Lower

A week after revealing plans to cut 1,900 jobs in a major restructuring of the company, Australia's second-largest newspaper publisher, Fairfax Media Ltd., on Monday said that three senior editors from its leading mastheads—the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age—will leave the company.

Amanda Wilson, editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, and the newspaper's editor in chief, Peter Fray, will leave, the company said. In addition, Paul Ramadge, the editor in chief of the Melbourne-based the Age, will also step down.

"These are extremely challenging times for the media," said Ramadge in a statement from Fairfax.

The company later said national business editor Sean Aylmer would become editor in chief of the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald, while the editor of the newspaper's website, Darren Goodsir, will take over as news director for Sydney.

"In this newly designed role, Aylmer will be the first person to have responsibility for the mastheads across digital and print platforms as editor in chief," Fairfax said in a statement, with the appointments to take effect at the end of this week.

It said editorial appointments at the Age will be announced Tuesday.

The departure of senior editors comes as Fairfax presses ahead with measures intended to save 235 million Australian dollars (US$237 million) annually by June 2015. The company recently gained a new major shareholder, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, who has acquired a 19% stake. But Rinehart's interest has provoked criticism by senior figures in Australia's government.

In a statement to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s Four Corners Program Monday night, Rinehart said that she and her company, Hancock Prospecting Pty. Ltd., could sell their stake in Fairfax if she isn't offered three board seats and the right to hire and fire editors.

Her refusal to be bound by the company's charter of editorial independence has been a stumbling block to Rinehart joining the board.

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan said last week that Rinehart's intentions for Fairfax and its newspapers have "very big implications for our democracy, I think we should all be very concerned at this turn of events."

Fairfax competes in Australia with News Ltd., the local unit of News Corp. The company, publisher of the Australian and the Daily Telegraph newspapers, is also expected to announce job cuts within the next few weeks, said a person familiar with the plans. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires.

Weekday circulation at the Sydney Morning Herald fell 14% to 180,960 in the first quarter, while at the Age, weekday circulation fell 13% to 165,061 over the same period. Fairfax made a net loss of A$390.9 million last year.

Fairfax shares touched a new all time low of 55.5 Australian cents Monday before recovering slightly to close down 1.7% at 57 Australian cents. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.5%.

This story first appeared on WSJ.com.

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