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June 18, 2012 / Amy Bradney-George

Farewell Old Fairfax

Fairfax is one of many media companies making big changes to “keep up with the times”.

This week has held some big changes for the Australian media, following the slew of changes announced by Fairfax. These include closing two presses, changing the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age from broadsheet to tabloid format, cutting 1900 jobs over the next three years and restructuring the company’s digital media platform with a pay wall.

I am so sad about these changes. I grew up reading the Sydney Morning Herald, had my first freelance piece published in Icon back when it was part of The Guide and often make going to the shops to get SMH or The Age and a coffee part of my Morning Weekend Rituals (broadsheet was part of the fun too).

The staff at Fairfax have done an a wonderful job, everyone I’ve met has been so committed and shown a lot of integrity. It’s sad to hear that so many jobs will be made redundant, and to hear that we will have to pay to get any Fairfax news in the future.

I still read newspapers and I plan on always reading newspapers. In fact I’ll probably end up buying them even more once Fairfax puts up their online pay wall.

The Old Digital Versus Print Argument

Every time a story like this comes up, one where an established company in print changes things and moves towards online media, people start throwing around arguments about technology versus traditional mediums. Just read through some of the comments on this Mamamia post about the Fairfax changes if you need an example.

While there are some fair points, and lots of statistics in favour of online, there are also things working against it (even if the following are primarily anecdotal, I am guessing others feel the same).

Unfortunately I find a lot of online news is badly written. Things move at a faster pace online, which I think is the main reason so many articles are badly written. Every day I find mistakes on the sites I regularly read, and at least a few times a week I will stumble over sentences so horrible I can’t tell if they’ve been accidentally included or if the writer was asleep at the keyboard.

That just never used to happen with print. Print is so much more…permanent (even though it’s not for newspapers).

People still like printed writing, too. Look at the success of mX. I would say around 90% of the people I see on trains during peak hour in Melbourne read it, including me. And the library is never deserted when I go in there. There’s actually a queue for three of the books I want to read, and I’m above 10th position for all of them.

Sure, I could buy digital copies but it’s not the same.I’m not bucking at change either, I accept that Fairfax must have been facing tough times for a while to make all these changes in one fell swoop (after all, magpies don’t come out of nowhere either, they’re protecting their babies).

I know the media is struggling to find ways to engage people and make a profit in a quickly-growing digital age. But I also think that people are making too many assumptions. Print is dead. Oh, really? So that makes me, what? A ghost because I read hard copies of anything and everything I can?

But none of this matters so much right now. What matters is that the changes are going to affect close to 2000 Fairfax employees, their families and all the other staff there. What matters is that a company feels like it has been cornered so long and faced so many hardships that the integrity and quality may now suffer. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen, and I hope that, like one of my friends who is a former SMH employee, there are other good jobs out there for the people that are cut.

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