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Thursday, 18 February 2010

Fairfax Media's headquarters is a bustling beehive of activity situated, comfortably, opposite the Sydney CBD's western margin near the water. Approached from the front, the building offers a spare, windy aspect to the viewer or visitor. Once inside the lobby space, however, the steady stream of journalists who pass through the automated security gates reassures you: this is a place of business.

My business, today, was to interview a senior executive of Fairfax Digital, which operates the digital assets of the company including its masthead websites.

To reach the pretty aerie where Jack Matthews, Fairfax Digital's CEO, works during the day you first have to present at the front counter, give your name, and secure a security pass. This neck-worm item can only be signed over once you've initialled the part of the register that references a fairly long statement detailing health and occupational safety guidelines.

Antisocial behaviour is not tolerated at Fairfax HQ. The list is instructive, and gives you an idea of the atmosphere that can develop between a journo and his or her subject when the chips - as they say - are down. No shouting or threatening conduct, for example. Fair enough.

There was nothing of this nature in the air as I met with Jack, a wiry middle-aged man with a narrow, open face and an air of good physical fitness. We sat down in the large conference room overlooking the city. I turned on my recording device.

I worried about the blog post I had made in relation to an interview Jack had given a week or so before. The post took issue with some of the things he said. Jack assured me that, although he had read the post, there was no problem on his part.

It was an ineresting interview, and the article I write in the next two weeks will contain a lot of what transpired. The main point of interest for me is how newspapers are fighting falling revenues.

After the interview, I scooted outside and caught a cab to take me across town to the Shangri La Hotel in The Rocks, where my next subject was waiting. Nic Fulton is Reuters' chief scientist and is based in Sydney.

After Nic, I spoke for about 17 minutes with an interesting man from Associated Northcliffe Digital, and English media company. Richard Titus also has a deep and abiding interest in solar vehicles.

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