Thursday, September 18, 2008

Redundancies, redundancies...

On August 26 of this year, I reported that my own employer, Fairfax Media, was axing about 160 jobs in New Zealand as part of a group move to cut costs and be (in the words of chief executive David Kirk) "lean and agile" in the modern media world.

The interesting thing about any such wave of "redundancies" is that, in no time at all, it establishes a new "norm" in the newsroom - a norm that, within a matter of months, can be seen to have considerable "fat" in it, notwithstanding the earlier company press releases that described it as "lean". The management then proceeds to make further cuts, all of which are, again, ostensibly in the interests of positioning the company more competitively (read "more profitably") in the marketplace.

The latest round of redundancies, announced in August, is now largely complete. But already, I have heard that the next round is planned for January 2009. How will I fare then, I wonder. And will the newsroom really be more "lean and agile" after the exercise?

I suggest that Mr Kirk is attempting to make reality the servant of rhetoric when he resorts to such trite imagery - in much the same way as Churchill did when he spoke of the "soft underbelly of Europe". Just as the "underbelly" of Europe was not soft - as the campaign in Italy proved - a newsroom that is cut to the bone, and which is thoroughly demoralised in the process, is considerably limited in what it can accomplish.

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