Fairfax announces newsroom transformation

27 Jun

Fairfax today unveiled a national “digital-first” editorial restructure that it says will transform the company into one newsroom with its own internal newswire.

Metro division group editorial director Garry Linnell, who briefed staff on Wednesday, said the plan was “the most significant editorial transformation in this company’s history” in a 25-page staff briefing.

The publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age will remove divisions between various print, web, tablet and smartphone as it pushes ahead with plans to shed 1900 staff over three years and build paywalls around most of its content.

Fairfax’s one-newsroom model, which will come with a single art department, is aimed at removing duplication among Fairfax staff.

“We will operate as one newsroom – across platforms, across geographies and across seven days,” Linnell’s briefing states.

“A shared, comprehensive national newslist is one of our greatest assets. It underpins our integrated newsroom.”

Under the new plan, Fairfax journalists will effectively become newswire reporters by filing copy on “rolling deadlines” across a seven-day roster for all platforms.

Weekend and magazine staff will also be rolled into the one-newsroom model and report to a topics editor.

The document describes the process so far. Staff were asked for feedback, reporting that:

  • The current way of operating leads to duplication, confusion and platforms not always getting the best content.
  • While the situation has improved, they still waste the effort of editorial staff and managers because planning and commissioning decisions are not transparent or disciplined.
  • Online is not included in planning
  • With about 90 per cent of staff reporting to print editors and a daily rhythm revolving around a newspaper, they do not treat online audience equally and create additional work for staff, particularly in production.

A number of  new roles are being created and others being transformed.

Editor‐in‐Chief: oversees journalism across all platforms – a transformative change from the current situation in which print and digital are managed separately. The EIC is the ultimate arbiter in the newsroom and the internal and external figurehead. Reports to the Editorial Director.
News Director: the newsroom’s linchpin, effectively the head of content. Platform‐neutral, the News Director is the EIC’s delegate in day‐to‐day operations and forward planning. When questions are raised about when and where a story is published, the News Director makes the final call. News Directors chair the daily and weekly news briefings, manage quality control and Topic Editors’ needs/performance and ensure Platform Editors’ needs are met. They will be supported by deputies to ensure news director presence 6am‐late across seven days.
Platform Editors: The editors of our newspapers, websites, tablet apps and mobile sites are the champions of our products. They are totally immersed in delivering journalism for targeted audiences, and must know intimately their platform’s strengths, audience reach/needs and demographics. They are not passive curators of journalism in the newsroom, but are expected to be
active in ideas generation and execution by liaising with Topic Editors and News Directors.
Topic Editors: Topic Editors lead a team of journalists and are responsible for delivering 24/7 coverage of assigned rounds to all of the platforms. A platform‐neutral role, they will be active in daily and weekly news briefings, maintain newslistings and diaries, manage the performance of the journalists in their team, oversee the production of online and print sections and liaise with
fellow Topic Editors. Editors of national topics report to the National Editor, editors of local topics report to the News Director.
Reporters: Reporters will no longer be aligned to one platform – they will be organised into topics and will produce their stories for all platforms. Their aim will be the same: to set the agenda by breaking exclusive stories, finding fresh and compelling new angles and engaging our audiences.
National of Production Head: a new role to lead a cross‐masthead, cross‐platform production team, elevating the quality of our online journalism.
Producers: for the first time, digital, newspaper and magazine production staff across geographies will unite to form a multiskilled production team.

Staff structure

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One Response to “Fairfax announces newsroom transformation”

  1. Jim June 27, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    Deckchairs. Titanic.

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