Johnston Press is to axe 18 jobs at a group of weekly newspapers in South Yorkshire and Humberside.
Extensive plans unveiled to staff today will see redundancies sought across South Yorkshire Newspapers, with the biggest impact on the Mexborough-based South Yorkshire Times – the company’s top performing newspaper in recent years.
The company has blamed the cut-backs on “underperforming advertising and circulation” and the need to reduce costs.
Managing director John Bills said that though 18 redundancies would be made, there were eight vacancies within the company that people would be encouarged to apply for.
Said Mr Bills: “Sheffield Newspapers Ltd, South Yorkshire Newspapers Ltd and Wilfred Edmunds Ltd are planning to work more closely together in order to win a greater share of the advertising market in the North Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and South Yorkshire markets.
“In the event these plans go ahead, the company will endeavour to minimise the impact through re-deployment to alternative positions across Johnston Press and voluntary redundancy.”
The company said a multi media news hub in Doncaster would serve the Free Press, the Star, the South Yorkshire Times, the Thorne Gazette and the Epworth Bells printed titles and their companion news websites, while the creation of a single news team serving the Selby and Goole area will be based in Selby.
This hub would result in the loss of a reporter’s role at Mexborough as well as an editorial assistant post. Journalists working at the Doncaster centre for the sister Sheffield Star title are also being told that they will now report to the Doncaster editor-in-chief, as well as Sheffield editorial management.
A NUJ chapel official for South Yorkshire said the savage nature of the cull had left staff shocked and devastated.
Chris Morley NUJ Northern & Midlands Organiser said: “These proposals show how flimsy are Johnston Press’s claims to believe in local journalism to serve the communities where its newspapers circulate. How can a newspaper and website properly engage with the town when it has no editor?
“The ironic element here is that in this announcement, the company has chosen to attack the editorial department of one of the best performing title for circulation in its stable.
“The South Yorkshire Times has fought hard for its reputation as a campaigning newspaper that digs out stories people want to read but this seems to cut no ice with the corporate bean counters.”
Chapel members will be holding an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the developments which are expected to be put into place within a month.
Mr Morley said staff were called to a meeting in Doncaster to hear the news. A consultation with management will end on 15 July.