FAIRFAX Media will move sub-editing and production at regional papers to New Zealand after rejecting an alternative plan presented by the union.
Fairfax says the changes are part of a strategy to “gain operational efficiencies in newsrooms” and focus the efforts of local journalists on local content.
“There has been uninformed speculation that this move will somehow undermine the quality of (the papers) … this is totally untrue,” Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood said in a statement.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) condemned the decision to outsource to New Zealand jobs at the regional community newspapers, including the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury.
“Fairfax has ignored its readers and instead has taken the axe to two great newspapers with proud histories of more than 150 years of service to their communities,” Media Alliance acting federal secretary Paul Murphy said in a statement.
The decision was “near-sighted and wrong”, he said.
The Alliance said it had put a proposal to the company recommending the creation of a virtual sub-editing and production hub based in Newcastle and Wollongong.
The proposal would have enabled skilled sub-editors to remain in the community while achieving cost savings, Mr Murphy said.
In a statement, Fairfax Regional Media CEO and publisher Allan Browne said the decision to relocate the work was the best one.
“We believe the relocation of work to another business unit of Fairfax Media delivers on several fronts,” the statement said.
“It reflects the Fairfax of the Future strategy of newsrooms concentrating their energy on creating content and the centralisation of secondary functions.”
The jobs will be relocated to FES, an established editorial production facility within Fairfax Media.
The equivalent of 56 full-time equivalent staff will be offered redundancies across both publications. If the quota isn’t reached some job losses will be compulsory, Mr Hywood said.
Newcastle Herald journalist Rosemarie Milsom said the decision was devastating.
“We are all utterly devastated,” she said in an email.
Dan Proudman, chair of Newcastle Herald’s house committee, said Fairfax wanted the changes in place by October.
“Their timeline is by October, when everything will be in place and… all production would be (moved) by then,” Mr Proudman told AAP.
“All the mastheads will start to move over basically from today, as well as some community papers, then Wollongong by end of next month,” he said.