Two district offices at Sheffield’s Star newspaper are set to close as the round of job cutbacks at the Johnston Press-owned daily continues.
HoldtheFrontPage reported yesterday that the paper’s chief photographer and magazine supplement editor are set to see their posts disappear, while production staff have been invited to apply for voluntary redundancy.
More details have since emerged about the proposed cutbacks, including the prospective closures of the paper’s Barnsley and Rotherham district offices.
If the plans are implemented, it will leave The Star with only a single district office in Doncaster in addition to its Sheffield HQ.
The two offices are currently staffed by one reporter each and these posts are also expected to disappear in the shake-up.
In addition, HoldtheFrontPage understands that the role of assistant editor Richard Smith is set to be axed, bringing the number of proposed redundancies so far to five.
Members of the National Union of Journalists will hold a chapel meeting this afternoon to decide how to respond to the proposals.
Mother-of-chapel Julia Armstrong told HTFP she would be recommending that union members take action against the plans.
She said: “The mood here is one of fury and shock. People are starting to think about what we can do to oppose this, and I would like to see the chapel taking some proper action.”
A Johnston Press statement said: “Consultations have started at The Star, Sheffield, concerning the possible restructuring of various roles within the editorial department and the proposed closure of branch offices in Barnsley and Rotherham.”
Robin Morgan (08/08/2008 01:28:32)
A history lesson – 50 years ago the Sheffield Star had a staff of four at Barnsley and two on its sister, the Sheffield Telegraph, It was the principal evening paper in the town and (I was working then on the Yorkshire Post/Yorkshire Evening Post covering Barnsley) it was hard work competing. It had the largest sale of the three evening papers then circulating in the town – the others being YEP and the Yorkshire Evening News.
Subsequent mergers saw the Star and YEN move in with the YP/YEP into what became United Newspapers and ‘rationalisation’ began. First the YEN disappeared, absorbed into the YEP, then the Sheffield Telegraph (by then called the Morning Telegraph) closed and United’s hope was the YP would take up its sales. It did not. The YEP stopped treating Barnsley as part of its circulation area and from having a choice of three evenings, Barnsley readers had one.
The law of diminishing returns worked with a vengeance. All this was ‘inspired’ thinking by management accountants to cut costs and increase profits but in reality it lost circulations hand over fist as readers were (a) unable to buy their preferred titles and (b) had less local news to attract them resulting in (c) ever diminishing sales and ever increasing costs..
True, the advent of local radio and regional TV news broadcasts also had an effect (along with the legalising of ‘bookies’ – stop press racing results sold a lot of papers to illegal punters!) on sales but the lack of an adequate local news coverage had a greater cumulative effect.
They never learn!
Every newspaper ever launched promised a vibrant news coverage and most succeeded. If newspapers want to remain in business they have to continue providing a vibrant news service – readers notice, even if managements do not. Internet news as a substitute is not the answer for towns like Barnsley because many people cannot afford computers and a broadband service.
The Star’s closure proposals are a suicide note.
No apologies for the length – I see this as yet another betrayal of good journalism and a denial of the public’s democratic right to a good local news service.
F. Johnston (08/08/2008 21:13:42)
The local press used to have a sense of mission and purpose – to serve their communities. That’s been completely sacrificed in pursuit of the bottom line by bloated juggernauts like Johnston Press.
A Sympathiser (10/08/2008 15:44:26)
It’s not just Johnston Press, it’s also happening with Northcliffe. I’m also redundant, so I know exactly what these people are going through. I agree with Robin – not everyone has access to a computer. Northcliffe has the slogan “At the heart of all things local”. In reality it’s anything but!
A Sympathiser (10/08/2008 15:49:28)
Unfortunately my former work colleagues are too busy looking over their shoulders, thinking “Who’s next?”, rather than going out on strike in support of their redundant colleagues.
F. Johnston (13/08/2008 20:29:02)
Johnston Press’s slogan is “Life is Local” – until, of course, your local decisions have to be ratified by the managing director, then the divisional managing director, then some bean-counter in Edinburgh. Not to mention the failed national brands – Motorstoday, Propertytoday – they’ve been trying to build up at the expense of local products only to now decided that was wrong all along and sack the sales staff.
Good thinking there then, Mr Tim.