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'UnFairfax' should keep Subeditors

1 July 2008

'UnFairfax' should keep Subeditors in local communities

Fairfax has a journalistic responsibility to keep editing jobs in our communities and regions ahead of short term cost cutting, Green Party Employment Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

Ms Bradford, commenting on Fairfax's decision to lay off about 40 regional subeditors, says: "It's disappointing to see Fairfax joining the trend of laying off yet more local subeditors and replacing them with euphemistically named 'centres of expertise' in Wellington and Christchurch."

Australian-owned Fairfax publishes more than 60 daily, Sunday and community newspapers in New Zealand, including The Dominion Post, The Press and Sunday Star-Times.

"Local communities rely on having journalists and especially sub editors who have a connection with and understanding of local news stories, and a sense of accuracy and responsibility towards that community.

"Local sub editors provide the local control of news and variety of perspective that a 'centre of excellence' in a big city cannot."

Ironically, last year the Fairfax owned Sunday Star Times, commenting on its rival APN undertaking similar plans, wrote: Instead of sub-editors performing their functions as an integral part of a unified local newsroom, they would work in a sub-editing factory, remote and separated from the newsgatherers whose copy they would be working on...

"Good sub-editors hold a particular world in their heads when they edit the newspaper ... A factory sub working on the newspaper in a different city might well miss [a] mistake. Good subs will know the back story of the story in front of them. They can deepen and broaden the story in a way that the factory sub, lacking this local knowledge, cannot.

"Newspapers that want to keep their souls will fight this trend. They will do this not just out of sentimentality and a preference for diversity against uniformity... They will fight it because it's bad economics... The singularity of the paper is, in the end, its greatest asset. That is what the readers like about it. Factory subbing threatens to still this beating heart."

"I call on Fairfax to consider this decision in the context of its responsibilities a leader of our Fourth Estate.

"Not only is this proposal bad for workers, who will be asked to reapply for their jobs in a different city, but it hurts our local communities who reply on local news for their communities' strength and well-being."


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