Fairfax and News Corp in war of words over ‘printing closures’

Fairfax Media and News Corporation have traded barbs over allegations Fairfax will fast-track the closure of its metro dailies.

The allegations – that Fairfax will bring forward its plans to close the Monday to Friday editions of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – show how far the relationship has soured, considering the pair of newspaper giants were rumoured to be considering sharing print facilities as recently as last year.

Now Fairfax has accused News Corp of "fabricated nonsense" after The Australian reported that Fairfax planned to close the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

It comes after Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood told investors in June that the company "[would] not produce unprofitable newspapers" – although he said his two flagship dailies were safe "because they are profitable".

However, The Australian wrote yesterday: "There is growing speculation Fairfax Media will bring forward the date of closure of its Monday to Friday editions in Sydney and Melbourne, amid a weak advertising climate and next year's planned reduction of the company's printing capacity.

"Senior Fairfax insiders have told [The Australian] the plans currently involved the weekday editions of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

"While Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood has previously flagged a possible closure of print editions as early as 2015, it is believed weak revenues and the company's avowed declaration of a 'digital first' strategy have hastened the historic retreat from its print products."

[Related: Fairfax to cut debt with print centre sales]

Hywood hit back hours later with a staff email that accused News Corp of shoddy journalism.

"In The Australian’s media section today, the writer Darren Davidson has a piece of fabricated nonsense, which states Fairfax is bringing forward plans to close the Monday to Friday editions of the SMH and The Age," said Hywood.

"There are no plans to bring forward. Such an option has not even been developed let alone put to me as an option.

"Why would we be expanding our print facilities in North Richmond and Ballarat if we were considering such a move?

"When I heard Davidson was considering writing the article I personally called him. I told him what I have stated above.

"That he chose to write this nonsense and The Australian chose to publish it says all that needs to be said about News Corporation."

Meanwhile, APN News & Media's new chief executive, Michael Miller, has told The Australian that media rivals should work together to save money.

According to The Australian, "APN has been sharing back-end costs with News Corp Australia in Queensland to achieve cost efficiencies and Miller wants to include other publishers such as Fairfax Media."

Miller also told the paper that the media industry should stop being "apologetic about print".

"Print is nearly a quarter of the main media spend in the future. That's not dying. Print isn't dead. Australian consumers spend $30 million a week on newspapers. They're engaged and I think we need to remind advertisers how engaged they are."

[Related: More news about newspapers]

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