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SYDNEY (Reuters) - More than 100 journalists at Australia's oldest publisher, Fairfax Media, protested outside the company's offices on Thursday at the start of a rare week-long strike in opposition to a decision to axe a quarter of its editorial staff.
Fairfax is shedding 125 jobs at its Australian newspapers as part of the latest cuts, which the company said was needed to restore its financial well-being amid falling print readership numbers and the leaking of advertising dollars to digital rivals such as Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook Inc. Journalists wearing black T-shirts bearing "Fair go, Fairfax" stood outside the company's Australian offices, while other employees protested outside a Sydney hotel where Fairfax's Chief Executive Greg Hywood defended the job cuts at an industry conference. Hywood said editions of Australia's oldest continuously printed newspapers would continue even though the strike is expected to see many of Fairfax's most experienced journalists absent for Australia's federal budget, a centrepiece event of Australian media companies.
To fill the void during the strike, the company has sought assistance from other Fairfax employees, contractors and agencies for news coverage.
"It is the not first time we have faced industrial action," Hywood said as he addressed a Macquarie Group conference.
"We won't be dissuaded from making the right decisions. "Fairfax imposed a round of job cuts earlier this year when it scaled back news coverage, focussing more on politics, entertainment and crime.
Paul Murphy, chief executive of the journalists union Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, said the job cuts were unfair when employees helped aid Fairfax's transition to digital.
"Through all the challenges, they continued to produce high quality independent journalism. This is their reward," said Murphy in a statement.
While journalists bemoan the slide in coverage, investors have cheered the attempts to cut costs.
Shares in Fairfax, which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, rose nearly 2 percent on Thursday to hit a five-week high of A$1.09 a share, a gain of more than 50 percent from a two-year low hit in November 2016.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Randy Fabi