29 January 2015

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Editor leaves group in cost-cutting restructure

A weekly newspaper editor who has spent 20 years with the same publisher has left the company after his post was made redundant.

Derek Holmes was the editor of Newsquest Oxfordshire’s weekly papers, which include the Oxford Times, Bicester Advertiser, Witney Gazette and Banbury Cake, but has left the company as part of a cost-cutting restructure.

Under the move, Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill will assume editorial responsibility for the weekly papers, as group editor for all the Oxfordshire titles.

The move was announced to staff yesterday by Shamus Donald, regional managing director for Newsquest Oxfordshire and Wiltshire in an internal memo which has been seen by HoldtheFrontPage,

It said: “Trading conditions remain challenging and we continue to seek ways to operate more efficiently and reduce costs.

“We have reviewed the editorial structure in Oxfordshire and have concluded that the department can be run well with a single editor.

“Following recent discussions with Simon O’Neill, Oxford Mail Editor, and Derek Holmes, Weeklies Editor, I am writing to let you know that Derek is leaving the business and that Simon will assume editorial responsibility, as Group Editor, for all Oxfordshire’s titles.

“I am sorry that Derek is leaving. He is a fine journalist as well as a hard-working, supportive colleague. I want to thank him for everything he has done during his 20 years here and to wish him well.

“This change in the editorial management structure takes effect immediately.”

Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson was not available for comment at the time of publication.


  1. Sly Dig, Work

    Good see to Gannet have still not bitten off more than they can chew.

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  2. Hacked off


    Be a cold day in Hell before one of these management types announces: “We have reviewed the ADVERTISING structure and have concluded that the department can be run well with a single supervisior.”

    Nice redesign by the way.

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  3. Hilary, UK

    If you’re so sorry he’s leaving, Shamus, why are you letting him go? Another case of throwing 20 years of experience down the drain. But then, it’s NQ, so no surprise there

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  4. J T McTurk, USA

    I once worked with Newsquest. They kept sending very fat men down from HQ to lecture and patronise all of us working on what was, in fact, a very successful newspaper.
    The last of them told us that if we wanted to boost circulation, we must place the front-page lead on the right-hand side of the page, not the left.
    Like his two outsize mates, this character was quite obviously a Newsquest management buffoon who knew as much about newspapers as I know about the Bhutan government’s fiscal policy. Not long afterwards, I left – and never made a wiser move in my life.
    While I moved up and prospered, my dear old former paper gradually went down the toilet. The last I heard, it was being run by a man and a dog, the dog presumably being the editor. Its circulation – once unwavering – is now in freefall.
    Good old Newsquest, the morticians of the newspaper industry. Who are they going to bury next?

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  5. Mr O, UK

    Any redundancy is painful and my thoughts go to Derek who is a decent bloke who led a pretty uninspiring product slowly dying along with its ageing readership.

    However, this move was inevitable really as Newsquest consolidate and consolidate further – a process that’s being going on for a decade.

    Expect all the Wiltshire titles to come under O’Neill’s stewardship in the near future with further editorial redundancies inevitable in the medium term.

    In the long term, expect the Mail and Advertiser to run 2-3 times a week with 20-30% reduction in operational and staffing costs or an even more radical shift to weekly titles only with a skeleton daily online presence.

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  6. Keith R Mitchell, Oxford

    In my view – and I have known Derek for the 20 years he was with the paper – he represented integrity and quality. I hope he has left these qualities very strongly embedded in the newspaper that he leaves.

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  7. Martin Leaver, Oxford

    I have known Derek for over 20 years as both a friend and former colleague. He encapsulates all that is good about local newspaper journalism and had just led the Oxford Times to be shortlisted for another award. He was too good for Newsquest and is better off out of it.

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  8. Mr O, uk

    I disagree with the comments above from Keith. The OT was and is a dull, uninspiring product that is dying almost as quickly as its North Oxford readership.

    Further consolidation and cost efficiencies are inevitable and sadly the last shake of the dice at Newsquest who understand the model is bust and there’s no other revenue channels to turn to.

    Derek is a decent bloke, but at the end of the day, business is business. Expect O’Neill to look after all titles soon – including the Swindon Advertiser – and an Oxford Mail published 2/3 times a week or even a merged OT/OM platform within the next three years.

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