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Top editors quit Australian papers after parent company announces layoffs, paywalls

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, June 25, 2012 7:32 EDT
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Top editors at Australian newspapers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald resigned Monday, after parent company Fairfax last week announced an overhaul designed to embrace the digital era.

Peter Fray, publisher and editor-in-chief at the 180-year-old Sydney paper, and its first female editor Amanda Wilson, said they were leaving, as did The Age’s editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge.

Their resignations pushed shares in the company down one cent to 57 cents, a record closing low.

It follows last week’s shock announcement that Fairfax will slash about 1,900 jobs and downside The Herald and The Age from broadsheet to tabloid size and put the two dailies’ websites behind a paywall.

“We are saying farewell to two champions of our profession, and their decision to leave brings to a close two very distinguished careers with Fairfax,” Fairfax editorial director Garry Linnell said of Fray and Wilson.

Ramadge, who is expected to depart next month, said he was leaving the influential Melbourne newspaper with “divided feelings” after several weeks of talks, but added that he backed the group’s new direction.

“The time feels right for me now to go and to chase things away from the mothership,” he told his newsroom.

“It is in no way a sign that I disagree with the strategy announced last week. The strategy is right. Another era is about to begin and I will be among those cheering from the sidelines.”

The Australian media sector is enduring a turbulent period, with the two major newspaper groups Fairfax and Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited both flagging large job cuts last week.

News is yet to nominate how many positions will go from among its staff of 11,000 but reports put the figure at 1,000 to 1,500 as media companies lose readers and advertisers in the switch to online platforms.

At the same time, mining magnate Gina Rinehart has increased her stake in Fairfax, provoking fears she will seek to assert her influence on the newspapers which are known for their integrity and professionalism.

The company’s chief executive Greg Hywood thanked Fray and Wilson, who step down on July 5 and June 29 respectively, as he assured Sydney staff that Fairfax saw editorial independence as its “essential task”.

“The Sydney Morning Herald is yours,” he told the newsroom, after naming Sean Aylmer as editor-in-chief and Darren Goodsir to the newly created post of news director.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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