News CEO pays tribute to staff amid bushfires

THIS is the text of an email sent this afternoon to all News Ltd staff from their Chairman and CEO, John Hartigan, who pays tribute to colleagues for their outstanding coverage of the Victorian bushfires.

I want to personally acknowledge and thank everyone involved in our coverage of the Victorian bushfires. When things are really tough, we produce some of our best work and this is profoundly evident this week.

Across our company, our editors and senior managers worked together to provide the leadership that enabled us to deliver such outstanding coverage around the country.

I particularly want to acknowledge and salute the reporters and photographers who put their lives at risk to bring us the stories and images.

Some of our colleagues worked for several days without a break and others worked on even though they personally or their families had suffered tremendous loss.

Among those most affected at News are Gary Hughes from The Australian and Marion Taffe from mX. Gary and his family lost their home of 25 years but immediately went to help others nearby. Gary’s first hand accounts this week in The Australian and online have been extraordinary.

Marion was at work on Monday when her sister called to tell her they had lost their cousin, his wife and their two young children. They were about to evacuate and didn’t make it out of their driveway. Marion’s story published this week is heartbreaking.

Eight of our Leader Newspapers in Victoria are in fire ravaged areas. staff at six Leader titles worked around the clock and extended their deadlines to provide the latest coverage for their communities early this week.

The families of a number of Leader staff have lost everything in the fires.

This is a very traumatic assignment for many of our people. Please know we will give you any assistance you need and counselling is available.

An event of such devastating tragedy and relentless intensity has required us to collaborate between mastheads in ways that are very hard to achieve on a breaking news story of this magnitude and duration. It is a model for how we should deal with any major story of national interest in the future.

Our coverage in print and online was led from the newsroom of the Herald Sun. With great co-ordination, it was supported by The Australian and our newsrooms in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, which sent reporters and photographers to help, edited sections or moderated and packaged content that was used by all mastheads.

With so many involved it is inappropriate to single out people. But, I also want to applaud the work of our online editors and staff and News Digital Media. Up to today, our network of news sites has generated 157 million page impressions.

I am also proud of the many other forms of support from around the company among which The Geelong Advertiser’s appeal on Tuesday raised almost $140,000. HWT’s ribbon campaign has been a great success and as of last night 6,500 people have ordered photos of Sam the Koala with the help of volunteers who manned the phones to deal with demand.

All of these proceeds are being added to the $1 million pledge made by News Limited on Monday.

Thank you
John Hartigan

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