Hard News by Russell Brown


Improving quality by cutting service

Fairfax Media is making appropriately soothing noises about its plan to "review" the positions of as many as 50 sub-editors on its stable of print publications, but the equation is clear enough: it aims to improve quality by cutting service. That service being a quarter of its local sub-editors.

The plan -- for the moment at least -- is to create "subbing hubs" or "centres of expertise", where world and business news and feature pages are prepared for the use of all Fairfax newspapers. Executive editor Paul Thompson is promising that local and sports pages will stay with their respective papers, and that those papers will stay under the control of their editors.

One the face of it, this is a less-bad move than APN's move last year to sack 70 subs and outsource a great part of their work to the third-party company Pagemasters, which has been a disaster for the staff who remain and now have the additional task of rescuing their employers from Pagemasters' work.

But the pleading of hard times for newspapers is a little hard to swallow given the bold noises David Kirk made about Fairfax's New Zealand business (not just Trade Me rolling on, but a solid "recovery" in the print business) in announcing the company's 2007results.

It's tempting to suppose that Fairfax looked at APN and thought ""well, they got away with it …"

Even this month, Fairfax's Australian parent was talking up the company's position, and announcing a major new online newspaper initiative in Western Australia.

Still, at least Fairfax is acknowledging that some fool dropped its plans onto the company intranet, rather than blaming The Invulnerable Secret Super-Hacker With Da Mad Skillz. National is again implying that it's not a leak, it's a cyber-crime. Really.

(Also, I can confirm that the tip that led The Standard to an interview last year in which John Key appears to tell a porky about the party's use of Crosy/Textor did not come from the Beehive. Or even Wellington.)

For Aucklanders, Steve Abel has the lowdown on what you can or can't put in those big new recycling wheelie bins.

Mr Litterick provides a helpful guide to the requirements of becoming a nuclear weapons state -- preferably without boiling one's liver -- and also wonders why a prospective attack on Iran isn't considered more of a news story.

A ZDNet blog says just enjoy Steve Jobs while you've got him.

And, finally, I popped along to last night's launch of the New Zealand Science Media Centre.

The centre is being run by the Royal Society, the successful tenderer for MORST funding to provide sound, timely and useful science information and support to New Zealand media.

I think they have the right people: former Herald technology writer Peter Griffen is the centre's manager, and Idealog publisher Vincent Heeringa chairs its board.

Among the centre's activities will be the development of a database of competent scientists who will be available to journalists, and media-train them where necessary. In some cases, it will also publish attributed quotes for use in breaking news stories.

I told Peter last night that Public Address would be delighted to source guest blogs via the centre, and I hope that starts to happen sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, via the new website, Landcare Research scientists may have settled the mystery of the kiore's arrival in Aotearoa.

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