Wednesday, November 12

Fairfax shows how to accelerate the decline of a great newspaper

I'm glad I went back to read Michael Duffy's piece more carefully. I'd been at risk of launching an intemperate attack on the “right-wing Philip Adams”.

Last Saturday when Merry came back with only half the Sydney Morning Herald, and said the newsagent told her Fairfax had failed to deliver the second section to the Central Coast, it was almost a relief. There's too much to read already. But we had paid full price despite not receiving the Spectrum and Good Weekend liftouts.

Could we blame Fairfax's current “business improvement program,” ie, slashing staff numbers? Along with such encumbrances to profitability as sub-editors and customer service staff, had the company also pushed distribution supervisers – the guys who knew which bundles went on which trucks – into accepting redundancy?

Yesterday, I was grumbling about it at the No 1 ladies book club (I'm the only bloke), when I found the others were also cranky with the SMH.

Fairfax had also failed to include a Writers Festival insert distributed to Sydney readers. Signs in newsagents' windows showed this was a Fairfax decision, not an accidental blunder.

Perhaps those Fairfax chiefs on multi-million-dollar remuneration know better, but it seems a strange way to push a daily newspaper in a competitive market.

Right now, I have The Australian home delivered, six times Monday to Saturday, for just $4.95 a week. It began when a call centre rang to offer the promotional deal on the Daily Telegraph. Well, no, I haven't felt the need to read the Terror since I retired from it – what about The Australian? No problem. So I signed up for the promotional offer, and when that ended, for a long-term subscription at the same price.

Oh dear! I was going to talk about Michael Duffy, wasn't I? That's because what I did get of the SMH on Saturday included his attack on global warming theories, but yesterday when I clicked on the website of a leading authority he quoted, I found he'd misquoted it significantly. Perhaps I'll make that the next post.

In Crikey today, contributor "Broadway Betty" suggests shareholders at tomorrow's AGM in Melbourne ask directors: "Was an executive share retention scheme – in addition to cash bonuses and salary increases – secretly announced at the end of 2007?" If "Broadway Betty" is a journo, perhaps she should put her hand up for that redundancy offer. Unless, that is, she can explain how one secretly announces something.

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