The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Just How Much Does The Age Value Catherine Deveny’s Contributions?

Posted by Clem Bastow on March 18, 2009

Not a whole lot, it would seem.

Two weeks back, Deveny wrote – in honour of International Women’s Day – a stunning piece about the lack of female voices in the Australian media. Her weekly columns may be polarising, but there are many who turn to the Opinion page come Wednesday morning just to see what she has to say. Those of us who love her do so because we love her wit, passion and honesty. Two collections of her columns have been published. In other words, you could be forgiven for thinking that The Age would want to hang on to her for dear life – but you’d be wrong.

Since last Wednesday, Deveny has been on strike:

[New] editor Paul Ramadge declined to honour an agreement Deveny had struck with his predecessor Andrew Jaspan for a pay rise that, according to one Age insider, would have taken her into the stratosphere.

The Age (and Fairfax as a whole) has a recent and rich history of stuffing around its editorial staff, but such behaviour is even more injurious to its freelance contributors, of which Deveny is one. She is a contractor who recieves no super, benefits, holiday pay, maternity leave, sick pay or long service leave. The blokes at the top get paid performance bonuses for cutting costs. The last thing Deveny wrote about the was the lack of strong female voices in the media (and only 13 of the last 69 opinion pieces in the paper were written by women). Now she’s not there.

Complain and tell your friends – tell The Age (and Ramadge) that you don’t approve of their dealings: call 9600 4211 for reader feedback, or send a letter to the editor.


24 Responses to “Just How Much Does The Age Value Catherine Deveny’s Contributions?”

  1. Christine Bolt said

    Dev rocks! Agree about lack of female voices in Aust media – Corrine Grant would have been way more clever and funny than Rove in his shoes, good on her for breaking free. It’s like the old ‘Jacki Mac sidekick to Daryl’ must live on for a female to feature – why can’t a woman ask the questions on Tempation?

  2. …and Dev is even funnier in the flesh.

    We’ve got to keep her in the paper, there are so few real women left in the media.

  3. Nico said

    I certainly appreciate Deveny’s capacity to generate debate and to voice insights in a mainstream arena that would often pass by unnoticed. I loved her piece about a wife changing her name – or not – published a year or two ago in The Age. It brought out scathing hidden prejudices that reinforced to me how far feminism has to go.

  4. Mel Campbell said

    I really feel there’s more to this story than what we’ve heard so far, and I wouldn’t like to be sketching a David-and-Goliath battle between the Dev and the Ram just yet. The only source I can find for the ‘on strike’ allegation is that story from The Australian, which got it from an “Age insider”, and which doesn’t seem especially pro-Dev anyway (“Deveny’s departure is a sad blow to this paper’s Cut &Paste section”).

    Is the Dev really ‘on strike’, has she chosen to pursue other projects, or has her column simply been axed? Was there an actual breach of contract (the agreement with Jaspan) or was the pay rise only ever hinted at, and hence it’s legitimate (if douchey) for the Ram to refuse it? Has she quit The Age altogether or is she still doing her TV column in the A2?

    Personally I would have liked to email the Dev to ask what’s going on (y’know, the kind of basic journalism that Andrew Bolt appears incapable of), but as a contributor she won’t have a Fairfax email address. If you’re reading this, Catherine, please drop us a line…

  5. Elizabeth said

    The Dev is definitely on strike. She has posted on the wall of the “Catherine Deveny is my hero” facebook group: “I’m on strike over a pay decrease. Feel free to let them know if you’re annoyed. I’m gagging to write.”

    Absolutely devastating. Wednesdays were the highlight of my week. I’ll be taking this up with Ramadge, as should all of you.

  6. Catherine Deveny said

    Hey Mel and everyone,

    Yes I am on strike but not as reported by The Australian (they corrected it today) for a rise but have been fighting a massive decrease for six months to an cheap and cheerful rate I have been on for years.

    The column has not been axed. I have told them that I am not filing ’til the issue is resolved.

    Enough’s enough.

  7. MarianK said

    I thought I was the only person in the world who noticed the 2 X 5 Media Law of Gender Balance – i.e. For every 5 males on a panel show, news bulletin, TV series etc, there must be no more than 2 females. And then there’s the nightly sports segments on TV news bulletins – for every 20 segments on men’s sport there are only about 4 on women’s (and then it’s blink and you miss them).

    Whatever wave of feminism we are in at present – I think it’s about the fourth – this one has be the one that washes away the media’s warped idea of gender balance.

    Unequal pay, unequal employment opportunity, inadequate childcare, rape laws that protected the perpetrator while humiliating the victim etc are now considered tangible injustices against women, but were all once deemed ‘normal’ or ‘just the way things are’. Hopefully, one day the same will be said about the entrenched cultural sexism of the media.

  8. caitlinate said

    Ello Dev. Stupid Age, being stupid. However, you can guest post with us til it’s all resolved if you like! We won’t pay you but will… um… hmm… i’ll go away and think of some incentives…

  9. […] a posting on feminism blog The Dawn Chorus, she said: “Yes I am on strike but not… for a rise but have been fighting a massive […]

  10. Jay_W said

    Deveny givin’ it a red-hot in the paper. Kickin’ Channel 9 in the cods. Pretty much sorts my morning out before the depression of the headlines set in. I just reckon she’s a damn fine columnist and shall leave it to those more qualified to discuss the finer points of feminist media theory (although you don’t need a degree to agree with the principle being argued here). In a related vein, what’s with the rule that says ‘one righteous woman at a time’ for the dear old private school boys’ club at The Age? BRING BACK SUE-ANN POST – along with Deveny, and Tracee Hutcheson I would begin to find the Age a bit more relevant/provocative/incisive/inclusive!

  11. David Richards said

    Attempts to try and spin this as some anti-feminism jihad are naive at best, or simple self-serving.

    Let’s bear in mind that this is simply about money, specifically that the former Age editor allegedly promised CD a massive increase – one which the incoming editor has decided was a bit rich.

    Having worked at Fairfax in the past, I’ve seen first-hand how some regular contributors and columnists (especially those favoured by an editor, or whom an editor doesn’t want to lose or for some other reason wants to hang onto) can end up pocketing a WHOPPING pay packet for a weekly column that’s way beyond what any staffer would expect. Sometimes those numbers are simply out of kilter with reality, and certainly with a budget.

    So a new editor comes in and wants to set things straight, budget-wise? Maybe wants to cut a few of the overly-generous, perhaps ridiculously generous, contributor payments? That’s well within the editor’s right, just as it would be for any incoming manager who needs to get a budget back under control.

  12. caitlinate said

    @David. The specifics of the situation aren’t that Dev is not going to get a pay increase it is that they are attempting to decrease her pay.

    I don’t know if Clem was attempting to paint the events around Catherine Deveney’s strike as anti-feminist or as just generally outrageous. Either way it’s not simply about an individual writer asking for more money or resisting a reduction in pay. It’s happening in the wider framework of a system that involves gross pay inequity for women and the skewed ratio of male to female journalists working for The Age/Fairfax.

    To spin the event as ‘simply budget related’ ignores the wider context of gender inequality in Australia and is as irresponsible and naive as you claim the original post to be.

    And, sorry, but at what point did sticking up for a writer we like and criticising decisions made by The Age editor become ‘spinning’ this as an ‘anti-feminism jihad’. Chill out on the rhetoric.

  13. David Richards said

    @Caitlinate: yes, the new editor wants to decrease CD’s pay – my understanding is that he wants to reverse the very large rise promised by the former editor. Again, I ask, what’s wrong with that? I’ve seen these renegotiations from an outlandish pay boost or even an overly high per-word rate happen in the past.

    There was a case where an editor of one Fairfax daily decided a mate who was a contributor would get $1.50 per word, even though everyone else on that section was getting around 70c. The editor left, a new one came in and said this just wasn’t on, and the contrib had to face reality – drop back to 70c per word or drop out entirely. That’s completely fair, and in essence it’s no different to CD’s situation. If an editor decided the pay rate is simply way too high, even untenable, then it’s got to be revised.

    As to my feminism comments – five of the comments in this thread which have been supportive of CD (which is over half, when you count CD’s own comment plus others from those of a different mindset) have all waved the feminist, anti old-boys-club flag. So that’s their rhetoric, not mine.

  14. caitlinate said

    Referring (whether implicitly or not) to Fairfax as an old boys club (which it is) and coming out in support of female writers – on a, cough, feminism blog – is quite different to claims of an ‘anti-feminism jihad’ (to quote your totally exaggerated rhetoric).

    Your comments on budgeting and pay are reasonable and obviously informed. What I am saying (and feel the OP is saying) is that these things don’t exist in a vacuum in which gender doesn’t exist.

    Your analysis doesn’t take into account the rates her (male) colleagues are being paid for the same role. It’s possible that the pay rise merely lifted her to equal status and now she is battling against a reversal of that, not to mention a whole range of other potential factors. I have no idea and neither do you. You can of course make commentary with knowledge you do have but was it really necessary to fly in under the flag of a dismissive and aggressive ‘fuck you, feminists’?

  15. rachel said

    Another thing to keep in mind here is the exclusivity agreements Fairfax imposes on its contributors: IIRC from when I signed it, you’re not allowed to write for anyone else if you contribute more than three stories to them in a six month period.

    This is ridiculous, of course, and fortunately they don’t impose it most of the time, but for a weekly contributor like Deveny, they would. In which case, rates upwards of $1/word, whilst unheard of for most contributors, would not be at all unreasonable – the woman’s got to eat, after all.

  16. David Richards said

    I never said ‘F* you, feminists’ – you’re the one to fly that flag. I simply said, and still believe, that responses to this as a _feminist_ issue, an attack on feminist rights etc, are misguided – because I believe this is about money, nothing more.

    “It’s possible that the pay rise merely lifted her to equal status and now she is battling against a reversal of that” – now that’s a guess _at best_, you have to admit! I’d suggest it’s more likely that CD was simply given a way more than necessary increase which the new editor is seeking to cut back. I’ve seen this done for male and female writers alike. I honestly believe that as feminism is CD’s shtick, she is (understandably) seeing this whole issue from a feminism perspective, when it’s quite likely a LOT simpler.

  17. David Richards said

    @Rachel: if CD is bound by such a restrictive ‘contract’ then I agree completely — north of $1 per word on a weekly basis would be fair recompense for the lost opportunity of writing elsewhere.

  18. caitlinate said

    David you seem to be confusing feminist ideals/politics and women’s rights.

  19. David Richards said

    Caitlinate: well, here’s how I see the difference between those two.

    A woman’s right, in this instance, is to get as much money as she can for her work, eg a weekly column. But guess what? That is also a man’s right. It’s in fact a person’s right.

    It’s only when someone complains that they’re getting less than they think they should _because they’re a woman_ that it becomes a tired feminist tract.

  20. Katherine said

    Who is David Richards? Where does he fit into this picture? More importantly, where’s Deveny and when do we get her back?

  21. Bhakthi Puvanenthira said

    David Richards, your inability to see the broader picture here is kind of stunning.

    I guess for me this isn’t just a feminist issue (though I don’t want to play that down), but also part of WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE AGE. There are plenty of us out here that are looking for content like Catherine’s, but instead of pursuing new directions (though it is unfortunate that having women columnists is a new direction), they are pursuing idiocy. Exhibit A — distressingly glossy, nonsensical and offensively “metro” Sport and Style magazine in the paper.

    As Dev herself said to me last week, let’s get some ink back in the veins of the Board at the Age, and see some vision.

  22. Catherine Deveny said

    Dear David.
    You are wrong. I have been fighting against a pay DECREASE to a word rate I have been on for five or even more years, maybe more. A modest word rate I was on before I had any profile whatsoever. A basic contributor rate. I never fought it ‘as a woman’ I just fought for what my original agreement was.

    Never talk of a raise. Just maintaining a simple word rate.

    As of midday today negotiations are now sorted and I’ll be back in the paper in the next week or so. And I can’t wait.. Thanks for anyone who supported me. I have so much to say.


  23. Tina Cain said

    Dear Catherine,
    Glad to read you will be back in The Age. I did write letter to the Ed on your behalf. If we have social issues to draw to your attention how do we go about it?
    Regards Tina

  24. David Jones said

    What a performace by CD on QANDA! I have never felt so proud to be an intolerant ignorant rude fool in my life! Darwin got in it wrong – as long as CD has food on the table each night natural selection is a nonsense

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