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The despair of the shrinking newsroom

Media and marketing

In this week’s column, despair inside News Corp’s dwindling Adelaide newsroom, a local journalism experiment wins much-needed funding, and a skeptical Adelaide podcast has a brush with the unexplained in Glenside’s notorious Z Ward.

Is the pain over for News Corp’s Adelaide newsroom?

An insider tells us the newsroom that produces The AdvertiserSunday Mail and Messenger Newspapers has become a depressing place to work, with News Corp confirming to InDaily that it has sent 40 staff packing in the past seven months.

A spokesperson for the Murdoch company said 40 Adelaide newsroom employees had been made redundant between December 2016 and July 2017 inclusive.

We understand that figure includes reporters, subeditors, graphic artists and photographers.

According to the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) News Corp now employs about 150 staff in its Adelaide newsroom. The company spokesperson said it was “close to 200”.

A source within News Corp’s Waymouth Street HQ told InDaily the mood was “flat” in the newsroom.

“People are doing more with less and depressed at seeing colleagues disappear every week,” the source said.

MEAA SA branch director Angelique Ivanica told InDaily the union had “great concern for the health and general wellbeing of remaining staff, given the environment they are now left to work in”.

“The pressure on staff to continue to produce the quality and quantity (of) journalism, in a reduced workforce, has worrying implications for workplace health and safety.

Several Adelaide staff have been bid farewell on social media this week.

The insider who spoke to us was spurred by a number of recent puff pieces that appeared in News Corp’s weekend newspapers, pumping up the performance of its local products.

This puff piece ran in the Advertiser last Saturday.

Photography is a particular area of concern, with about half of the regular roster losing their jobs.

Ivanica said News Corp had “failed to adequately consult and enter into meaningful discussions with the staff and the union” as those particular axes fell.

While news agency AAP has put on extra photographic staff in Adelaide to serve local papers, the newspapers have been publishing reporters’ images – a rarity in the past.

InDaily understands Mel Mansell, News Corp editorial director for SA, NT and Tasmania, held a meeting with Adelaide staff earlier this month, assuring them that the Adelaide newsroom “restructure” was over, for now at least.

The News Corp spokesperson stressed that any characterisation of the Adelaide bureau as a shrinking newsroom was “entirely incorrect”.

Walkley grant for Adelaide journalism experiment

An innovative Adelaide idea to make the audience part of the process of journalism has beaten a huge field to win one of five innovation grants from the Walkley Foundation.

The duo behind InDaily partner publication CityMag, Farrin Foster and Josh Fanning, this week celebrated winning $5000 to advance their City Standard project.

As the Walkley summary describes it: “The Standard’s team involves subscribers in pitching yarns, developing them, and funding them, resulting in a space for and sustainable funding model for important, local journalism”.

“Establishing a direct financial and intellectual relationship with the audience means City Standard’s stories can remain uncompromised by the needs of advertisers or by the search for an ever-greater number of clicks.”

The platform is in development, with the first subscribers helping to shape its final form.

Fanning says he hopes the Standard will break the “click bait system”, which encourages media companies to seek stories that engage a lot of readers lightly, “while ignoring information in which a few people might have a deep interest”.

“The City Standard is a place where our audience can invest in stories that offer tangible insights into our shared reality,” he says.

“That’s a wordy way of putting it, but what I mean is that when you sign up to City Standard you will be able to engage with writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers in the creative process and then sit back and watch their work come to fruition.”

Foster and Fanning believe the Standard model has the potential to be rolled out in other small cities to boost local media companies facing similar challenges.

Read more about the Walkley innovation winners here.

A ghost in the skeptics’ machine?

A “light painting” image of Steve Davis in Z Ward. Photo: Nigel Dobson-Keeffe

The upload of this week’s edition of the excellent podcast, The Adelaide Show, had to be delayed for 24 hours after technical issues affected recordings made on Tuesday night in the infamous Z Ward at the former Glenside Psychiatric Hospital.

Hosts Steve Davis and Nigel Dobson-Keeffe, both self-confessed skeptics, had interviewed Alison Oborn of Adelaide Haunted Horizons about alleged paranormal experiences at the former asylum.

The interview went well, but when Davis attempted to edit the podcast, only half of the audio would play.

“For 204 weeks, the same recorder has worked flawlessly, as has the team’s video camera,” says Davis. “However, not only has the audio file become corrupted at a point in the conversation in which Oborn started talking about dark history at the facility, but half of the videography and photography taken upstairs amid the cells have also proved to have corrupted file status.”

Davis and Dobson-Keeffe remain skeptics about the paranormal, but they are scratching their heads about this turn of events.

Thankfully, they have managed to pull together a podcast, despite the technical problems.

You can listen to the results here.

Media Week is a regular column covering South Australia’s media, marketing and PR industries.

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