Bureau goes, ‘Times’ told to ‘go local’

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“THE Canberra Times” Parliament House press bureau has been dumped as part of  the Fairfax Media restructure and journalists have been told the newspaper’s “focus in future would be on more local news”.

Fairfax’s “Australian Financial Review” has reported that the company told journalists of the move last night. According to the report, “There was no guarantee the bureau journalists would be redeployed to a merged Canberra bureau of ‘The Age’? and ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’.”

There was no report of these “local” changes in this morning’s “Canberra Times” not, at the time of posting this story, any mention on its Fairfax-based website.

The daily news blog site crikey.com.au commented this afternoon that: “The only daily newspaper in Australia’s capital city, where politics and government is the main industry, will no longer have its own bureau or its own dedicated journalists covering federal parliament and all its entrails.

“Of all the white flags raised by Fairfax this week… the decision to close the parliamentary bureau of the national capital’s proud newspaper is, in symbolic terms, one of the most depressing.

“This is newspaper that, in its heyday, attempted to model itself on the ‘Washington Post’ as a serious broadsheet that covered the capital’s local news and national affairs for a unique audience in the company town of politics. The newspaper that has as its motto: ‘To Serve the National City and Through it The Nation’.

“The unravelling of quality journalism doesn’t get much closer to home for federal politicians than this.”

The decision follows Monday’s Fairfax Media announcement of  cuts to 1900 jobs across Fairfax over three years.

More than 50 “Canberra Times” staff met yesterday with management for 90 minutes to discuss how the Fairfax restructure would affect the newspaper; however staff said there was no mention of job losses.

“Fairfax Metro division head Jack Mathews said switching ‘The Canberra Times’? to a tabloid format was being considered but it was not the pressing issue it was in Sydney and Melbourne, where printing plants are to be closed,” the “AFR” report said.

“No final decision about moving to a tabloid format had been made.”

Earlier reports out of Fairfax Media said 20 per cent of the 1900 jobs to be lost will be in editorial, with about 150 to come out of the “metropolitan mastheads unit including ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, ‘The Age’ and ‘ The Canberra Times’ over the next two to three months”.

The announcement also revealed “SMH, “The Age” and “The Canberra Times” will change to digital subscriptions towards a “metered” model. The newspapers will also adopt a digital-first editorial model.

On February 23, Fairfax announced that cost savings were expected to reach $170 million of annualised savings for the 2015 financial year. With the cost-saving initiatives, including the closure of Chullora and Tullamarine printing presses, the company is now expected to reach total savings of $235 million on an an annualised basis by June 2015. A total of $215 million is expected to be achieved by June 2014.

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