Fairfax Media is a casualty of Internet

May 5, 2017

Fairfax Media staff publicly began a week-long strike after their employers announced that it will chop 125 editorial jobs, journalists. Fair Fax Media management’s plan to trim jobs has ignited a major uproar. Employees at the company have voted to walk off the job. Some of them whom your blogger has seen views posted online says the future of independent and quality journalism in Australia is at stake. The journalists to announced one Twitter that they will be on strike for seven days, a stoppage that will include the Federal Budget on May 9.But do the striking journalists believe they’ll manage to convince the management to rescind their decision? It maybe the case in short term but long term that won’t be the case. In digital news operation, the reality is that the newspaper business operates with precious few reporting resources and majority of the stories are from other outlets on the internet. Journalism in print media in Australia is on the ash pile of history and the problem at FairFax Media is another indication that print is less viable all the time in the face of an onslaught of free information from the Internet. Newspapers with a vision are spending heavily on digital operations.Print circulation for all papers across Australia including The Age and Sydney Morning Herald has continued to drop although the readership has been growing, a rare bright spot in a market where general readership has continued to fall. Days when circulation earned more money than advertising did for FairFax Media are long gone. Fairfax Media is trimming costs in the face of declining advertising and circulations from the newsrooms of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times and WA Today. The said papers have suffered from a weak business side, and although journalists have a right to down their tools, am afraid they are living in the past with their belief that strong journalism could overcome the lack of a commercial blueprint.Staff layoffs have become common not only in Australia but around the world. For the past couple of years, the newspaper business at Fairfax has seemed rudderless, without coherent goals. In my view, to sensibly downsize the staff will change FairFax Media fortunes.With the rise of online news portals, with more people reading stories online rather than in print, the FairFax papers like The Age, Brisbane Times and Sydney Morning Herald have shifted their focus to updating their readers on the latest breaking stories which on the other hand has left the print edition to provide explanatory articles behind the breaking news, cutting into their relevance. It is the dawn of a new age in Australia’s media industry and for FairFax Media to survive, the company will need to ensure that it continues to serve the readers’ needs in an era when information needs to be delivered fast and that can only happen in digital platforms.The journalists are FairFax Media should have noticed that the writing was on the wall when News Corp Australia flagged job cuts across its newsrooms in a new cost-cutting push to streamline operations.Data shows that ad revenue for Fairfax’s metropolitan media arm has been shrinking and that could have left management with no option but to align with trends elsewhere or face closure.

FairFax journalists must remember that news media is journalism for past society, a 20th century sector that has no future. The unparalleled transformation in technology has reshaped the media landscape. The traditional media has lost its control over what news entails and the likes of The Age and Brisbane Times key position as a main news source for Australia is dead and buried. Their role has been taken over by digital media technology. Few Australians aged 35 and below hardly cares about the notion that traditional news brands are still relevant to deliver accurate and accountable information as a guarantee of credibility. Fake news or as Kelly Anne Conway’s would call it ‘alternative truth’ thats digital age for you and just like counterfeit products are here to stay, ‘alternative news’ is here to stay because pluralism of media through the rise of social media is unstoppable. If you ask your blogger, he is of the view that alternative media is the freely available option to mainstream journalism that FairFax Media offers.The decline of FairFax Media and traditional media audience and profit as well as the gap between public and media, are challenges the media industry can’t overcome. Australia is one of the countries with the highest internet users and that means readers can access any content freely within or outside of the country. No doubt media often plays a key role in societal change and thats what FairFax media newspapers have been doing for ages. However, they have failed to match up to the demands of readers for their failure to mobilise Australians to actually care and solve the problem, unlike media in say, UK where a political event with both social and economic ramifications like Brexit saw the newspapers mobilise Britons for or against it. Where were FairFax newspapers when Trans-Pacific Partnership was threatening millions of jobs in Australia? Thank oracles new US administration has binned the plans. Print media in Australia is deeply related to political activities and always take sides but never does anything when it comes to ordinary Australians. In other parts of the world, when media reporting goes extreme, violence does happen, jailing too like is happening in Turkey and journalists get murdered. This doesn’t happen in Australia where journalists only elitists practical issues like celebrity gossips, non issues related to entertainment as was the case Roxy Jacenko the other day or sports like Rugby, Cricket, Australian Football among others. Mainstream journalism in Australia and especially at FairFax media, the reporting rarely touches the whole Australia society system and is more on individual level focus. Thats why people are trooping online to read content that matters rather than newspapers that glorify wealth, crime, elites etc because print media is largely owned by wealthy folks resulting in bias reporting.By shifting to digital platforms, FairFax Media must make sure that it is connected to Australian readers and that Australians will feel that FairFax media newspapers like The Age and Brisbane Times are something that comfortable to buy and read. FairFax newspaper business must be attractive and relevant. For those striking journalists, I can’t avoid telling them that they will continue to work while facing a myriad of challenges, to educate Australian public on what is going on and to give Australian society a chance to adapt to the existence of other alternative media like digital media and not just defend the 20th century media as if we are living in baby boomers generation when newspapers journalists were arguably among the best enumerated gods of society.

Contador Harrison