Fairfax Media has confirmed it will cut 47 journalists, photographers and commercial staff from its Illawarra and South Coast newspapers.
The company, which publishes the Illawarra Mercury, told staff on Thursday of its final plan to restructure its newspapers from Wollongong down the coast to the Victorian border.
Fairfax Media’s Australian Community Media director John Angilley said the plan would ‘‘revitalise’’ newspapers and allow staff to ‘‘adopt more efficient ways of working’’.
It will reinstate 2.7 full-time jobs across 14 mastheads compared to its original job cuts proposal, announced in May.
The Mercury will gain one extra reporter and half a full-time photography position under the new plan.
The Wollongong-based newspaper will still bear the brunt of the job cuts, with about half the editorial staff to go. A third of reporters, half of the photographers and all production positions will be made redundant.
As planned, the Lake Times and Wollongong Advertiser will be merged into one paper, while the Nowra-based South Coast Register will drop from a tri-weekly to a bi-weekly publication.
Voluntary redundancies opened for all staff on Thursday.
Mr Angilley said the company was introducing a ‘‘new way of working’’ at all its regional papers and had already successfully introduced the plan in south-west NSW and regional Victoria.
‘‘Our staff will adopt more efficient ways of working and new technology to improve how they provide local news and information to their communities, with our journalists and photographers continuing to do what they do best – telling local stories,’’ he said.
‘‘This is a substantial upgrading for our newsrooms with new systems, digital-first editorial production practices and quality checking processes plus a vastly better local sales approach.”
Hundreds of submissions from staff, community leaders, businesses and politicians were received by the company during consultation on its original proposal, and Mr Angilley thanked staff and community members for their feedback.
“It is pleasing to see that our communities care about our journalism and our trusted local mastheads as much as we do,’’ he said.
‘‘With the continued support of our audiences and advertisers, our plan for the future will help our newspapers and websites remain sustainable and vibrant local voices.”
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance media director Katelin McInerney said the union remained extremely disappointed at the company’s decision.
‘‘We understand that, while newspapers face a challenging future, we believe the only way forward is to invest in quality local journalism,’’ she said.
‘‘While we welcome any additional positions saved, staff still hold grave concerns about their ability, with these levels of job cuts, to provide the coverage their community expects and deserves.’’
The company will open recruitment for the position of Mercury editor on Friday, after the departure this week of Alistair Langford-Wilson.
“We are grateful to Alistair for all he has contributed to our business and wish him well for the future,” a Fairfax Media spokesman said.
Deputy editor Jen White will be acting editor while a new editor is recruited.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.