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SA media industry reeling as job cuts loom

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The local media industry is reeling after News Corp announced a new wave of redundancies at its Adelaide operations, including the likely sacking of a large chunk of its photographic staff.

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In total, 11 photographers are believed to be on the chopping block at News Corp’s Adelaide publications – The Advertiser, the Sunday Mail and Messenger – with further redundancies planned for “production” staff.

The redundancies are part of a national sweep of cuts announced by the media giant yesterday. In February, the Rupert Murdoch-led company posted a group-wide loss $A287 million, driven by impairments on fixed assets at its Australian print newspaper business, which include the national newspaper The Australian and capital city tabloids including The Advertiser.

In another blow to local media employment, Seven’s Adelaide newsroom has also made cuts, with several staff – including a veteran camera operator – taking what the station is calling “voluntary separations”.

A spokesperson for News Corp said it had yet to decide how many staff would be cut in Adelaide, but that it was moving towards using agency and freelance photographers to “supplement” its “core” group of photographers on staff.

“There are no numbers on how many photographers [will be made redundant],” she said.

“We’ll retain a core, in-house photography team, supplemented by freelance and agency [staff].”

The staff-agency-freelance photography model, she argued, was a “global standard” that had been common practise in the UK and the US “for decades”.

The spokesperson told InDaily there would also be jobs cuts in “production” but that no “reporters” would be cut.

She said the changes would affect staff within “the whole production process of printed products” – but would not say which specific roles are in line for redundancy.

“There will be changes to the production process so that we can … streamline the process,” she said.

However, SA branch secretary of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Angelique Ivanica, said she had been told 10 or 11 photographers would be made redundant in Adelaide and that journalists would be expected to take on more production work.

She said the company was expected to retain eight “on the road” photographers and six “on the desk” photographers.

She stressed, however, that there had been no formal confirmation from the company on how many staff would be cut.

Photographers, production staff and journalists were briefed about the changes at a meeting yesterday afternoon.

Ivanica said she was not aware of planned redundancies outside of photography, but that “the expectation is that reporters will be taking on larger roles”.

She lamented that ever-expanding demands on journalists – not only to write news stories but to edit them, and take their own photographs – would necessarily reduce quality, through no fault of journalists’ own.

“It just looks like less people doing more work, to the extent that it becomes ridiculous,” said Ivanica.

“The amount of jobs that have been lost in this industry in the last few years is phenomenal.

“It’s a serious time.”

She said many journalists were abandoning the industry to work in public relations because there was “nowhere else to go”.

News Corp’s Waymouth Street newsroom is almost unrecognisable from the bustling office that once housed a huge workforce.

In 2014, leaked internal operating accounts for News Corp Australia revealed the company lost 195 permanent staff members at The Advertiser and Sunday Mail in 2012-13 and another 23 in its suburban newspaper outlet, Messenger.

At the time, that was believed to leave fewer than 300 employees at The Advertiser and Sunday Mail.

The figures do not distinguish between journalists and other roles, and they don’t show how many staff were made redundant versus how many left or were fired.

The workforce has been shrinking ever since, with several long-standing editorial employees leaving last year.

Meanwhile, the media’s employment malaise has hit the Seven newsroom in Adelaide.

Seven won’t confirm how many staff are leaving, but InDaily understands that respected veteran camera operator Rob Brown is among them.

Brown is one of the station’s most trusted and respected hands, often being sent to cover big events overseas.

Curiously, Seven said in a statement that it hoped to re-employ some of the staff in the future.

“There has been a small number of voluntary separations, however we hope that these staff members will return to work at Seven in some capacity in the future,” a spokesperson said.

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