Amanda Meade writes (the Guardian 15 May 2017) that job cutting in the media industry is now focused on News Corp. It is less than a week since Fairfax journalists went back to work, after a strike over the same issue.
As many as 70 staff photographers from across News Corp mastheads have been told their positions are redundant as Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers adopt an outsourcing model.
Last week managers started meeting individual photographers for a “skills assessment” for forced redundancies.
The old model of staff photographers is being retired for a “hybrid model, consisting of a core team of photographic specialists, complemented by freelance and agency talent”, the company said.
News Corp is not the only newspaper company cutting costs. Fairfax Media journalists went on strike for seven days this month after the company announced it was cutting 125 journalists on the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age newspapers.
This round of News Corp staff cuts, announced last month, is the company’s latest attempt to slash the costs associated with producing its printed newspapers, which now attract just a fraction of the advertising revenue they once did.
The newsrooms of the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, the Courier-Mail and the Adelaide Advertiser will be restructured to run on a model which relies on agencies and freelancers for photographs as well as a small band of in-house photographers.
Sources told Guardian Australia that out of 20 photographers at Queensland Newspapers, only five will remain. Thirteen were forced to take redundancy and two took voluntary redundancy.
In New South Wales, a total of just 20 photographers will remain to work across all the local newspapers, the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph. More than 25 will be made redundant.
The Australian is expected to lose two photographers from its parliamentary bureau in Canberra.
Up to 10 staff photographers in South Australia have lost their jobs.
A spokeswoman for News Corp said the redundancy program had begun but declined to confirm numbers.
There has been an outpouring of support for the photographers from their journalist colleagues, who have always relied on working as a team when sent out on an assignment.
One reporter wrote on Facebook: “Photographers are so important, and the photographers at the Courier-Mail are world class. I’ve had photographers stand between me and angry criminals.
“I’ve watched photographers crawl on concrete to get the best shot. I watched one photographer reassure an autistic boy for some time to make him comfortable.
“They’ve taken me, and a lot of equipment, to see royalty, bushfires, car crashes, protests, and rarely asked me to hold so much as reflector. They’ve waited patiently when they could have just taken off. They’ve provided entertainment and sustenance on stakeouts.
“And, of course, they’ve made standard news stories spectacular. One chased my stalker out of the courtroom, down the street and into a car park.”
News Corp Australia, which posted a second-quarter loss of $287m in February and cited impairments in the Australian newspaper business as a key factor, is expected to target production staff, including subeditors and designers, next.
The director of editorial management, Campbell Reid, has said the restructure of the traditional newsroom was needed to “preserve in print and excel in digital”.
The latest cuts are on top of a round in December that led to 42 journalists, artists and photographers being made redundant in an attempt to slash $40m from News Corp.