Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fairfax turns guns on journos | The Australian

Fairfax turns guns on journos | The Australian

Fairfax seems to not be pursuing the paper business any more. And judging by the low-grade content filling lately, web may not be their priority either. So as money has been pulled from the news room and less journos are asked to fill more pages, what has happened to our last great non-Murdoch media factory?

I have a friend who used to work at the SMH. He recently took a redundancy package, as, being a sub-editor, he noticed that every time another subby took a payout and left, he was left with increased load and no talk of even incremental pay increases to compensate. It was untenable, and sounds that way for others I know sticking it out there.

That said, his pay out must have been solid, as he hasn't had a permanent role in over six months and living in the eastern suburbs can't be that cheap.

Hundreds of journos and sub-editors have been cut in recent years. The moving in of the accountants coincided with the journos' move out of Darling Park - the glorious views from their top level cafe could see easily to the Blue Mountains.

Now, with Fairfax media located over at Pyrmont, (near where I used to work at Foxtel) the views are of the casino's pokie-style lights and the 15minute walk into town means that most Pyrmont workers settle for a steak sandwich or quiche from the local shops.

It's by no means terrible, but working in the CBD, with myriad lunch and drinking options, the convenience of meeting contacts, a parade of good fashion and the likelihood of running into friends cannot be matched. Working anywhere else feels drab and uninspiring.

I certainly found this when Foxtel moved from its harbourside wharf location, sitting under the shadow of the entire Sydney skyline, to North Ryde. They call it the next CBD. I call it purgatory without the fun.

So now, if you work at Fairfax, what do you have left? A less than ritzy location, a mgt that won't play ball
on pay discussions and website that is two steps from being a genuine threat to TMZ.

ABC's Media Watch has paid out on their Britney obsession more than once.


Like many others, celebrity coverage is not why I liked the herald. But it's the old tits-for-clicks question. If it's going to drive more traffic, can you resist making that your hero (biggest picture/headline)?

And that's not all that is wrong with Oh no.

I have a pal at Sunrise who is particularly pained by that strip of images just at the fold (bottom of screen before you scroll).

And I have to agree.

The five shots are basically celeb faces, that are invariably cropped to within a pixel of their lives, and generic, bland photos at that. E.g. youtube screen captures, TV captures, or hi-contrast red carpet ugliness.


The last great thing about Fairfax's new barney with its workers, is the still-simmering controversy over the appearance of Rupert in the office furnishings during the Pyrmont relocation.

It was a calamitous mistake by some office fitout boffins, who unfortunately, have about as much design cred as those who fitted out Foxtel's music channels (Channel V, MAX, Club V - later to become V2).

The office design was an error of quite serious proportions to a creative crowd.

Channel V, when I started, was a loud, unconventional mass of twenty-something music fanatics, the passionate, slightly unhinged type.

It was also in a dynamic, open, airy environment with all the mess of a teenager's room plus all the TVs and plasma screens of a news room. F-words and C-words were thrown about like cheetos at a party. And the space reflected the people.

Then Foxtel moved to North Ryde, a suburb that reflects little more than traffic noise.

When Channel V staff walked in, it was as a feeling as close to starting work at a call centre that any of us would ever have. Low ceilings, white furniture against white walls, and, as we soon found, some under-desk drawers were so cheap they wouldn't open.

Like the move for Fairfax workers, it was an unhappy one for the most optimistic staff who decided not leave, to see how it pans out.

Eventually, management got around to looking at the design to see what could be done. And after many committee meetings, which I was a vocal part of, the new designs appeared. Enormous stands at the end of each row of desks, depicting (kringe) mainstream rock stars, TV personalities and beside them, brand logos just as large.

So it looks like Fairfax's creative team got the same deal, uninspired office art that wasn't going to help anyone think outside the square, reconnect with their audience or feel the workplace reflected them and their peers.

And like Fairfax, we could not even recognise some of the faces. None turned out to be the opposition (which would have been MTV hosts, I guess) and so, if I recall correctly, The Dixie Chicks were replaced eventually with Beyonce.

Now that's inspiring.

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