ROD Quinn, “The Canberra Times” editor, has strenuously denied yesterday’s “CityNews” story that the incumbents of the literary editor and the arts editor positions at the ailing paper have been offered redundancies.
And he’s right, if not a little disingenuous. They haven’t.
However, a “CityNews” deep throat on the staff reports that the positions of literary editor, arts editor, features editor and day editor have been deemed “surplus” to requirements and are to be axed from the organisational chart by September as Fairfax consolidates its national editorial functions.
Whether the current incumbents of those positions, who have been told of the impending changes, or other staff members are made redundant remains unclear, but there will be the long-anticipated “negotiated redundancies”. The effect of losing such a concentrated level of creative journalistic input at one fell swoop may test the paper’s ability to sustain a “local” flavour in the feature and arts pages.
Last month, the paper’s Sydney-based owner Fairfax announced a major rescaling of its publishing business with wholesale staff cuts and a restructure of newsrooms in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. The editors of “The Sydney Morning Herald” and “The Age” have subsequently left the business.
Yesterday “CityNews” reported that the literary editor and arts editor currently held, respectively, by Gia Metherell (also a union representative) and Diana Streak were to be offered redundancies. In a call to “CityNews” general manager Greg Jones this morning Quinn denied this.
Locally, morale at the paper is believed to be subdued. A staff member of the “The Canberra Times” tweeted “CityNews” recently saying an announcement regarding the editorial future of the paper was to have been made last week. As this week ends, there is still silence from management. A caller to a senior by-lined writer at “The Times” yesterday was told them “no-one’s telling us anything” and that it was a “dreadful place to be”.
Long-time book reviewers, award-winning Canberra novelist Marion Halligan and former head of the ANU library Colin Steele, have publicly expressed disappointment at the suggested demise of the paper’s local literary reviewing function and its effect on Canberra writers.
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Ian Meikle, editor