THE SPY WHO SUBBED ME: Fairfax exclusives at risk of leaking under out-source scheme

If you have trouble seeing this slideshow, the moving photo-essay can be seen here.

Fairfax won’t be able to keep its exclusives secret as a result of outsourcing its sub-editors, industry insiders have revealed.

Newspaper industry sources familiar with the cut-throat nature of news say that crafty competitors of Fairfax will be able to exploit the fact The Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s usually highly secret pre-publication news and exclusives will be shared outside the company’s walls, to Pagemasters.

“No secret will be safe from us,” declared one feisty news practitioner last night when we put to them the exciting possibilities of leaks, infiltration and disruption made possible from Fairfax handing their daily secrets to a bunch of pimply back-packers and unwashed transients who’ll populate the partly News Corp owned Pagemasters facility in Melbourne. AAP owns Pagemasters, AAP itself has Fairfax rival News Corporation as a 45% shareholder.

Information security is one of the reasons why News Corp went with an internal “hub” of sub-editors where there’d still get economies of scale but without the many risks inherent in outsourcing general news.

Highlighting the importance of information security are these photographs, obtained by a member of the VEXNEWS Investigations Unit, from The Age’s sub-editors’ quarters in recent times. The photographs, beautifully taken, lovingly tell a poignant story of emptiness, loss, transition and sadness and could themselves surely be eligible for an appropriate prize.

Pagemasters are currently hiring and we cannot possibly comment on suggestions we have encouraged patriots in the VEXNEWS Investigations Unit to send in their highly polished CVs. The fact the company is known throughout the industry as “Slavemasters” has not discouraged them, they pay considerably more than our standard rate of a round number.

Although the work will be onerous:

Davidson says on average sub-editors are expected to process about three or four pages per shift, which he says would be a "significantly" higher workload than for an inhouse staffer.

The ailing newspaper publisher Fairfax has been burdened by billions in debt as a result of poor acquisition decisions made by company management over several years. It’s slowly throwing out the babes with the bath-water in a desperate attempt to survive.

Yesterday the company announced that it would, as previously reported here, be selling its profitable although certainly ill-fitting radio assets. The only player to so far persistently express interest, albeit low-ball, in the assets is believed to be John Singleton’s Maquarie Radio who could be left with commercial talk station monopolies from coast-to-coast if he stitched up the deal. Singleton’s Melbourne Talk Radio – believed to be losing as much as $100K per week – would be closed after he bought 3AW although the brains behind MTR, Steve Price, would probably be left in charge of 3AW, insiders say. There are other bidders around too, apparently including Lachlan Murdoch and those few left in private equity who survived the GFC but it will come done to Singo, our well-informed sources reckon.

Back in subbies’ land, there are already stories around town about rogue Pagemasters’ staff inserting their unsolicited views in copy for the Green Guide, The Age’s TV guide.

Some hope The Age will survive, in spite of itself, so that VEXNEWS will continue to have something to complain about. This is still a debating-point among occasionally divided members of the VEXNEWS Editorial Advisory Bored.

Before we stumbled on the idea, dastardly and fiendish minds in media circles have already contemplated the possibility of  a News Corp, radio or TV news snout being deployed in Pagemasters to ensure a regular flow of Fairfax secrets out the door. The possibilities are endless. Equipped with facial jewellery and hipster hair-cut, really anyone could blend in.

The temptation for the new “Slavemasters” subbies will be profound, as they will be paid considerably less than is common in most newspapers and certainly much less than the highly experienced redundant Fairfax crew. Many of the Pagemasters will be new to the industry as it seems the outsource company is making no particular effort to attract Fairfax subbies, favouring the young, nubile and cheap. As you would.

If anyone sees any members of the VEXNEWS Investigations Unit walking around with hats and fake moustaches in the East Melbourne Pagemasters’ precinct, please pretend not to notice.

Clearly, economies need to be made at Fairfax.

Pricey Peter Rowland catering is still very much in evidence in the lavish, grandiose premises of Media House that threatens to have a lower vacancy-rate than St.Kilda’s Gatwick Hotel after a lice infestation. With many dozens of subbies gone and the 3AW crew moving on to cheap suburban real estate under a new regime, it will resemble a ghost town very soon.

While Peter Rowland chicken sandwiches are to die for (and in our view contain addictive qualities), it’s clearly an indulgence and is seen as a symbol of grandiose waste and self-indulgence by company execs who are willing to slash at workers but are not willing to pull in their own belts.

Staff grumble that boss cocky Greg Hywood, who is paid millions to preside over the Fairfax mess, has conflicting loyalties too. Known to be on good terms with the shrewd Anthony Catalano, who founded the Fairfax-busting Weekly Review local give-away (some say with strategic advice from Hywood while he was still a senior state government public servant), there has been much talk of Hywood using company millions to take him out as a competitor while also looking after a chum. One good turn might deserve another given that Catalano employs Hywood’s boy Tom as a journalist in the feisty start-up.

10.18 AM UPDATE: The Aged’s managing director Don Churchill has just toured Media House with film crew in tow. Wags wonder whether it’s the filming of “Titanic II – The Sub-merging”



Filed under Uncategorized

22 responses to “THE SPY WHO SUBBED ME: Fairfax exclusives at risk of leaking under out-source scheme

  1. Anonymous

    There is a typo. You have doubled up some parts of the story

  2. Leonardo DiCaprio

    Location scouts have chosen UnFairfax’s Media House as the setting for Titanic II. BYO life jacket. Iceberg provided.

  3. Andrew Landeryou - editor VEXNEWS

    I too need a sub-editor. Thank you, duly fixed.

  4. pip

    This slideshow is the best thing that ever happened in my whole life.

  5. coz

    I liked it, you should do more graphics stuff.

  6. Ben

    “THE SPY WHO SUBBED ME”? Haha. This would have to be the best headline of 2011.

  7. Timmie Wilson

    The Age hasn’t quoted me in a very long time. At least I have the ABC.

  8. Kate Winslet

    Hereby awarding Andrew the Nobel and Noble Peace Prize for that headline.


    If only we could give credit for the headline where it was due.

    As in Langley, we can only bestow the asterix to protect the innocent.


  10. Captain Stubing

    Vex News has proven it is a champion of The Age. It’s the end of an era in the subbing world but it’s a new Andy aboard HMAS Landeryou. You are the anchor. The headline is a credit to you or the brain who wrote it.

  11. Jonathan

    The ailing newspaper publisher Fairfax has been burdened by billions in debt “as a result of poor acquisition decisions made by company management over several years.”

    I think their problems are much greater than poor acquisition.

    More like poor editorial decision. Bad journalism and Mismanagement of assets and the things that worked.

    The paper’s turn towards tabloid journalism was the beginning of the end. It once was a good newspaper but that was over 15 years ago. Now it is more ike teh Sun without page three girls than the Herald.

  12. The Rapture

    Brother Andrew, can’t wait for your coverage of the UnFairfax rally. And your slideshow. Turning the other cheek with technological know-how.

    Comrades are gathering outside Media House, corner of Collins and Spencer Streets, on Thursday the 19th at noon.

    Come one comrade, come all.

    Rally on!

  13. rob

    Four pages is hardly slave labor. Talk to some of the regional subs who do 10-12 a night. UK subbing hubs employ one sub per 9 pages.

  14. Pingback: Murdoch must be jumping for joy… « James Board

  15. Wenchy

    Boofa if you expect a ‘service’ tomorrow don’t forget to bring your ‘arab strap’ as I love what it does to Percy.

  16. Anonymous

    Maggie Thatcher, Jeff Kennett and Ted Bailleau imagined a world ruled by devotees to the dollar.

    The vast majority of Australians spit on their mad dream!

    Bring back The Age subs for Gawd’s sake!

  17. downunder sub

    Yeah ok rob….

    But is that 9 pages of UK tabloid with the very VERY large headlines and the massive pic of pretty ladies?

    Broadsheet can be different…you know with articles longer than one paragraph and stuff like that…

    Geez…UK tabloids make MX look like a heavy read.

  18. Lowrain Woeful

    Boofa, no arab straps for you. They are only for my wealthy donors who need a bit of a helping hand to get started and create a bit of grip .

  19. Normally a Murdoch Man

    What on earth is going on at the herald sun? Their latest promotion is, wait for it, the chance to win a 2008 Mitsubishi Magna. I thought it might be a bizarre misprint or caching quirk, but now, you have to see this to believe it. Are they rattled by their latest circulation plunge, or am I missing something?

  20. Persona non grata

    Andrew, Were you wearing a burqa when snapping those pix at The Age wake for the subs?

  21. Go Figure

    Vexnews is subbed in South Africa by intellectuals in a tribe of pygmies that worship posters of Andrew’s alimentary outlet. They have been applying for refugee status in Australia for years, and may seen be neighbours of yours.

    It’s a wonder Andrew hasn’t blamed them for all the litterals and grammatical errors in his glogs.

  22. King's speech

    Too much censorship on this site. My comments keep on disappearing. Howcome?

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