Just months after the Fairfax name was removed from the family’s former mastheads, John B Fairfax will reinvest in the news industry, announcing a new online site for investigative journalism.
“It’s not personal,” Mr Fairfax told 7.30.
“We are seeing this as an investment and it’s an interesting one, having being involved with the media myself for 50 years.
“You can’t actually eradicate the ink that runs through the veins.”
Here is something awesome to kick off your week: not only is @crikey_news hiring, they're investing in in-depth investigative reporting. God bless you guys for new creating spaces for AU journalism to grow and thrive https://t.co/YIX6SLeWs9 pic.twitter.com/ndJfrnR4Gx
— Wendy Syfret (@WendyWends) February 11, 2019
For generations, the Fairfax family published The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review.
John B Fairfax sold his remaining shares in 2011.
The death of Fairfax was slow and grizzly, with ownership and leadership changes, strikes and downsizing. Nine bought the mastheads and related digital businesses last year.
“I have to say that when we vacated it in 2011, I had a sense of some relief, unfortunately,” Mr Fairfax said.
“It was disappointing, I think, to see the Fairfax name disappear.”
The new publication will be operated by Private Media’s Crikey, run by Eric Beecher.
“We are not saying we are going to reinvent journalism. What we are saying is that the need and appetite for really vigorous, independent, investigative inquiry journalism is always there,” Mr Beecher said.
“We think that this is going to contribute to public knowledge and to holding power to account.”
‘Balance we can be proud of’
The new venture aims, in part, to counter concentrated media ownership in Australia.
“Independent journalism is important for any democracy. The diversity of opinion is also important. You have to be level-headed,” Mr Fairfax said.
“There is an attitude that the Murdoch empire, both in Australia and the United States, has a very right-wing tendency which, when I knew Rupert many years ago, it’s quite extraordinary.
“But we’ll provide a balance that we can be proud of.”
The announcement comes after BuzzFeed recently cut 15 per cent of its global staff, 11 positions alone in Australia, providing valuable lessons for the new Fairfax site.
“We think that you have to have a paywall – it needs to be paid,” Mr Fairfax said.
“There are a lot of issues that are sitting out there, call them stones if you like, and they need to be upturned and examined.”
The site, as yet unnamed, is scheduled to launch in April.
Andy Park is a former Fairfax employee