24 November 2014

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Northcliffe scraps Hull subbing hub after two years

Regional publisher Northcliffe Media is set to scrap the regional subbing hub set up in Hull two years ago and return production operations to local centres.

A small number of net job losses are likely to occur under the plan which will see subbing return to Northcliffe’s centres in Grimsby and Lincoln as well as Hull.

Northcliffe is calling the proposal a positive step in its wish to give ownership and control of its print products back to local teams.”

It mirrors similar moves carried out in the South West and East Midlands with the dismantling of the production hubs in Bristol and Nottingham.

Currently 17 full-time sub-editors and managers and one part-time sub editor are employed in the Hull production hub along with two graphic artists.

It creates editorial pages for the Hull Daily Mail and Grimsby Telegraph and some other products associated with the Scunthorpe Telegraph and Lincolnshire Echo.

The new proposals will see a total of 15 sub-editor roles – two of them part-time – available at Hull, Grimsby and Lincoln.  A formal 30-day consultation period has begun with those affected.

Some sub-editors have already moved from the hub to the Lincolnshire Echo and Scunthorpe Telegraph after those titles converted to weekly format.

Hull Daily Mail editor Neil Hodgkinson said:  “The proposed move is part of our strategy to make Northcliffe a flexible, vibrant organisation with creativity at the heart of every centre.

“Returning editorial production to the centres would help provide further opportunity to improve and expand their product portfolios whilst boosting morale and team work at a local level.

“The dedicated team has produced some great, award-winning pages but we have to be flexible enough to adapt our business to what is best practice for the future.

“We are determined to give local management every chance to grow their business by encouraging entrepreneurial thinking that is not risk averse. To have the creative process back in-house could only help that process.”

The two “production centres of excellence” in Hull and Nottingham were originally announced in February 2009 with the loss of around 50 jobs.

The Nottingham hub was effectively dismantled shortly before Christmas last year.

49 Comments

  1. Paper watcher

    Let’s hope that the subbing skills have not left the local papers. Since subbing was done out of house there have been dire mistakes in the local papers as the subs in Hull do not know the areas.

    I still remember with horror the readers whose ‘habitations’ had changed and only last week a child with a stamma. aaaaargh

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  2. hubbedout, UK

    well, with all due respect to the poor souls who work in them, it is obvious to anyone with any knowledge of proper journalism what hubs have done to local papers.

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  3. wits' end

    So, Northcliffe say the decision is “a positive step in its wish to give ownership and control of its print products back to local teams.”

    Err… who took that ownership away from local teams in the first place? Or have they conveniently forgotten that part?

    Another example of meaningless managerial drivel.

    Report this comment

  4. Ex-HDM Sub

    I can’t believe the production hub only lasted two years, but instead of cutting back more subs why not cut back the regional production editor’s numerous deputies?

    Report this comment

  5. Observer

    Paper watcher talks about dire mistakes in local papers as Hull subs do not know the areas and then goes on to quote basic errors in grammar and spelling as examples. Moving back to local centres ain’t necessarily going to cure that.

    Report this comment

  6. pedant's revolt

    Exactly, wits’ end.
    It doesn’t matter whether it’s Northcliffe, JP or whoever. Hubs have been cynically set up and dismantled at will for the sole reason of hacking off loyal, long-serving subbing staff, safe in the knowledge that at every turn of the ‘misery-go-round’, more jobs will be shed as yet another handful of skilled journalists say ‘no’ to being pushed from pillar to post.

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  7. Would You Believe it?

    If it was not so tragic for the people who have already upped sticks once, it would be hilarious.

    Frankly, what hope is there for the regional press when it is overseen by managements who display such ineptitude?

    Report this comment

  8. JCWood

    Of course the sad thing about this whole mess is the number of people who lost their jobs over the last few years as regional editorial directors tried their hands at business management. The story talks of positive steps – surely this is more a U-turn on bad decisions? The question I am left asking (although I know the answer) is will the people who made these terrible decisions, that will have ultimately cost the company dearly, be replaced by more competent editors? Stupid question really…

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  9. wits' end

    Of course they will JCWood! All the despicable excuses for bosses will be made to make a public apology for all the terrible decisions they’ve made, as well as forfeiting their chunky bonuses and company cars.

    Now you’ll have to excuse me while I chase that pig I just saw fly past my window…

    (It’s the only way I’ll be bringing the bacon home this Christmas!)

    Report this comment

  10. dave

    I worked in a hub, and was so hacked off with the whole situation that I let my professional standards drop – I really couldn’t have given a $hit after the way we were all treated.

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  11. dc

    I refused to move to Archant’s much-hated subbing hub in Ilford and am now much happier working in a proper local subbing set-up elsewhere. Despite having worked for Archant for 12 years up to that point, there’s no way I’d go back to the company once they admit their cost-cutting hub plan has failed, not after the way we were all treated. Aren’t newspaper companies stupid? Cost of everything, value of nothing, as my old Gran used to say.

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  12. Blustringer

    I don’t believe local editors ever had a say in whether or not sub-editing should be centralised. As usual it would have been decided in the form of diktat from head office. And, also as usual, no word of warning or criticism from those at the sharp end would have been heeded, or probably even tolerated.

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  13. hubbedout, UK

    the frustrating thing is that people who really know the business on the ground floor; reporters, sub editors, etc warned that the hubs would be disastrous for quality but were ignored in the panic to save money. So people waste time ludicrously filling in boxes created by someone bored out of their brains in a hub. Look at the rubbish passing as journalism and photography in many local papers if you still think hubs work.
    The problem is the managers who dropped the clangers will walk out with a nice pay-off, while the rest head for the dole. Nothing changes.

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  14. Last one out - switch off the light

    Well what can one say that is printable anyway!
    The only players ( they know who they are) who had any local power screwed up anyway and eventually got sent the “jump or be pushed” letter (better late than never).
    It’s a shame that the strong creative managers left at least three years ago being either frustrated or just made redundant.
    It’s just sad really.
    Yet another nail in the bloody coffin of what was once a GREAT company.
    All I can say is get the HUB out of there – again and again and again!!!!!!!

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  15. Runaway Ed

    Blustringer is right that local editors did not get a say in the hubs fiasco, if my experience is anything to go by. I was in one of the big groups when we all had to attend a supposed ‘regional blue sky think tank to revolutionise our editorial platforms’. It was quickly very clear that only one outcome was permitted – understaffed and distant design hubs, extensive job losses, closed offices, and lower quality products in a structure guaranteed to take a hammer to morale and commitment (so I understand what happened with Dave, above). A smokescreen of ridiculous new job titles was layered on top of all this.
    Editors, now to become ‘content managers’, were expected to ‘buy-in’ and then positively sell this mumbo-jumbo as PR-style mouthpieces. Some did just that as they needed to keep some kind of job. I’ve yet to meet one who really believed in the concept when you got them talking over a pint. Meanwhile I, like others, decided to press the ‘gamble’ button and joined the large gang of skilled and talented journalists who grabbed the redundo envelopes.
    Now I see a complete U turn, above, being sold with the same words used to set up these supposed ‘centres of excellence’ in the first place… ‘flexible’, ‘vibrant’ and ‘best practice’. The other repetition, unsurprisingly, is more job losses, although thankfully fewer this time round.
    Reading HTFP to keep up with news of former colleagues, I am regularly reminded that my sad decision to leave regional newspaper publishing a couple of years ago was the right one.

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  16. Hub escapee

    Once again clueless bosses treating journalists and subs like pawns in a giant wreckless game of chess. Had they listened to what the workers were saying during the farcical ‘consultation’ periods, there would be no need for these belated U turns. Such a waste of time, money and effort and causing a lot of good people a lot of stress and uncertainty. Beggars belief.

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  17. Swings and roundabouts, Out of the game

    It was the worst kept secret in Northcliffe that the hub in Hull would be disbanded. The question is…why bother in the first place?! Why take subs, who could build up local knowledge from being in a local paper office, away from their patches? Why then change your mind and not have the decency to say “we made a mistake”.
    The most galling thing, apart from any jobs that may be lost, is there is no admission of a mistake.
    Instead there is this tripe about keeping creativity at the heart of the heart of every centre. Rubbish…and people are expected to believe these mouthpieces.

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  18. FledtoPR, Lincoln

    What? The Centre of Editorial Production Excellence to close? We were full of contempt at the time and full of contempt now.

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  19. John Rogers, Berkshire

    Subbing hubs – surely the media suits’ answer to Mumbai call centres. “Here’s a great money-saving idea chaps… blah blah… oops, no it’s not – let’s go back to how we were when it worked perfectly well and pretend we’re modernising!” Time journalists were in control of newspaper organisations rather than bean-counters, HR legislation zealots and famous-for-being-famous failures who’ve blagged their way onto the executive gravy train because they were not good enough at the actual job!

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  20. Marty

    Looks likes it’s all getting flogged anyway … http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/media/8911319/Daily-Mail-and-General-Trust-considers-selling-regional-arm.html

    HTFP quietly placing this story low down on their website

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  21. Paul Linford, HTFP Editor

    Not so Marty. I decided to link to the Telegraph story from our round-up of journalism news rather than run it as an HTFP news item in its own right for the simple reason that I didn’t think there was anything that we could usefully add to what the Telegraph had already published. DMGT were not commenting, and the Telegraph had clearly got hold of some document written by Ernst and Young which they felt stood up their story but which we were not privy to. In those circumstances, while happy to link out to the story, I didn’t really feel justified in running a “churnalist” version of it which would have been based entirely on what another news outlet was reporting.

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  22. Abigail

    Oh, this is such a surprise! No one on Earth could have seen this happening, could they?
    I mean, back in February 2009, when we were first told about this plan and embarked on a period of ‘consultation’, no one thought that a hub was a bad idea, did they? It wasn’t as though every sub-editor involved was shouting ‘what a BAD idea a central hub is for the future of newspapers’, was it? No, not at all! We all embraced the idea of a move to Shottingham or Hell.
    I was one of the Lincs Echo subs who went to work at the Hell Hub. Not only did I have the honour of doing a 100-mile trip each day, but I was also allowed to part with £5.40 for the Humber Bridge as well.
    I shared the journey with a colleague on the days when we were allowed to work the same shift. We were eternally grateful for the generosity of our elders in Hell for allowing this to happen and thus halving the extortionate cost of travel to Hell. There were, of course, days when we were not permitted with work the same shift but we realised that this was just because it could not be helped, not because Hell hated us and tried to make our lives as difficult as possible.

    When we couldn’t get to Hell for whatever reason (genuine illness, car not starting, slight headache from the night before), we were allowed to work in … the Lincoln office! This was because there was no reason for us to work in the Hell office in the first place! We could do all the work in Lincoln – and we could even do it better because we were there with the reporters and management. How bizarre. We didn’t know how this could be the case. After all, the hub was a GOOD idea, wasn’t it?

    I left Northcliffe in December 2009. Oh dear, what a shame. If only I could have survived two more years in Hell, then I would have been in with a chance to work in the Lincoln office once again.

    Still, never mind. I will always think fondly of Hell’s Centre of Excellence: in particular, the massive tacky sign that was erected in July 2009, to remind us all of where we worked.

    Rest in peace.

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  23. Marty

    The normal procedure would be … “The Telegraph is reporting that …”

    From the public point of view, it’s irrelevant how it’s presented. It just strikes me as so potentially significant that it’s crazy to ignore it.

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  24. Paul Linford

    We didn’t ignore it. We linked to it.

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  25. Bean Counter, Confused

    I’m confused….
    Headline quotes disbanding of hub…. leads to flurry of posts commentating on what a flawed concept the hub was and slating inept management.
    Surely the reversal of the aforementioned flawed and unpopular decision is a cause for celebration? (with apologies to those individuals within the subbing unit whose roles may be at risk)

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  26. Ex-sub, Lincolnshire

    As one of several good local journalists made redundant this news is no cause for celebration. It may be a game to some people but to others it is loss of homes and possible mental illness.

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  27. Glen

    Bean Counter, this lot just love a good whinge. You should know that by now

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  28. Blustringer

    I must be drunk – I agree with Bean Counter, up to a point.
    It’s no reaon for celebration, but it is at least an acknowledgement of a mistake – an incredibly rare event in itself these days – and a move towards putting it right.

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  29. Freddie

    The reason it is not a cause for celebration is because, to take one large Northcliffe centre as an example, they had c20 subs before the hubs were set up, people were lost in the process and now it’s been reversed, are we back to 15-20 subs? Oh no, it’s now about 8.
    Yes, there were probably too many subs before and yes, it’s a bit of a myth about the legendary stories of high class subbing, but the hubs knocked the stuffing out of a lot of people and papers and reveresing the decision now is not going to undo the damage.

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  30. Ex-HDM Sub

    Well pointed out Bean Counter and Blustringer

    I agree. It does look like the new-look Northcliffe top brass are at least attempting to change the mistake that was affectionately called ‘Hub of S***e’. I hope the consultation is delivered fairly and promptly so that everybody can get on with their lives.

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  31. Fred Bloggs

    Looks to me more like each of the idvidual centres is becoming its own complete centre so that it can be sold off or swapped. Think about it: Regional Managing Directors gone, now Regional subbing gone, non-profitable daily newspapers converted to weekly. Each centre is being parceled up to be saleable or swapable in tis own rite. Or perhaps a local Management buy-out.

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  32. GladImOutOfIt

    Oh boy, I hope Fred Bloggs is right!

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  33. Blustringer

    Just hope and prey that it ain’t Newsquest or Trinity who buys them.

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  34. wits' end

    I do agree that it’s a step in the right direction, but I think it’s a little naive to say that it’s cause for celebration.

    I think the thing that has resulted in so many people “slating inept management” is the fact that there is no admission of a mistake here. These decisions – made by people further up the management chain – affect real people, causing real stress.

    I think people would be a lot more receptive and inclined to forgive a little if Northcliffe held their hands up and apologised for the upheaval and job losses that were caused by creating these hubs in the first place.

    Personally (and I don’t work for Northcliffe) I would always welcome management rethinking strategies that aren’t going well, but in this case I think owning up to their mistakes honestly, rather than dressing it up in ‘business speak’ would have been a better way to do it.

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  35. Runaway Ed

    Ah Bean Counter,Confused… of course anything that reverses the ‘Centres of Excrement/Excellence’ approach is to be welcomed by those who care about the quality of the products (yes, I’m one of those editors who recognised that the papers were commercial products, and if only the beancounters had been equally able to see that the products were NEWSpapers and NEWS websites we might have got somewhere.)
    But once again jobs are going. And instead of anyone openly saying “Right, that was a Big Mistake, let’s cough to it and start putting it right” we have yet another fanfared re-invention of the wheel, this time with a rapidly thinning tread, courtesy of the damage already done to the products.
    I suppose all these projects at least ensure the bean counters and leather chair shufflers are seen to be busy and essential, and we both know how very important that is when so many jobs are under scrutiny as to their necessity.

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  36. PK, Kazakhstan

    Abigail, I have fond memories of travelling with you to Hell and back, the lovely Humber Bridge being a particular highlight.
    I ‘chose’ to go to Hell rather than lose my job and most of the time was doing exactly the same job as I did in Lincoln. I was also told in the first week that if my car broke down etc I could work in Lincoln which made a mockery of the whole thing – why not every day then?
    As for mistakes, there have been some shockers! Mostly due to the fact that the majority of people were so demoralised they didn’t care. This generally came from an ‘us and them’ attitude from the management who regularly told us to ignore errors in copy from centres, something that surely goes against what a sub should do.
    It’s hard to resist the temptation to vent spleen over this shocking turn of events but I think the saddest thing is the number of people this has affected.
    I know several who chose redundancy rather than move from Lincoln to Hull and several more who sold up to move there. I was financially affected because of the ridiculous journey but I’m pleased I didn’t make the mistake of actually moving there.
    Lives have been seriously affected by these ‘mistakes’ although I doubt any of the cretins at the top are losing any sleep over it.
    I’ve since left journalism altogether choosing to teach English in Kazakhstan partly to get as far away from the hub as possible!

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  37. Dan Depan

    Suely for every hub subbed “clanger” there was a corresponding local reporter making the unspotted error in the first place.
    The number of publications currently using straight to page CMS software is underlining how slapdash and lacking in basic English many local reporters are.

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  38. Huba Hubba

    Some are missing the point. Leaving aside the awful treatment of people, the cynical hub experiment has served its cost-cutting purpose. Pre-hub subs in centre: almost 60, post-hub: 15.

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  39. subandadrink, Melton

    Glad to see the back of them. Pity about job losses. They are better off out of it. Think they were designed simply to beat us into submission in the hope we’d leave quietly and without a redundancy payout. The days at the midlands hub, bliss. Made to sit in alphabetical order, no talking, awful rotas, unflexible shifts and so many off sick with stress. So long hubs and thanks for all the stress!

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  40. redundanthack, lancashire

    This is like Groundhog Day. I worked for JP’s Lancashire hub in the mid-90s (under Neil Hogkinson!). It was disbanded after a few years and then – guess what? – brought back a few years ago. Last year it was disbanded again. Each time jobs were lost and lives wrecked. There will be winners and losers from the shift back, but the biggest impact is on staff morale owing to stupid management decisions. I know from personal experience what sweatshops Northcliffe centres can be, so good luck to all of you. Hope you’re not all back in Hell in 2015.

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  41. GladImOutOfIt

    Blustringer: The big boys won’t, you see, ‘cos they haven’t got the money. What you need is local consortia, the sort of people who set up the papers in the first place.

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  42. Frank, Wussex

    I think the concept of the Hull hub was superb. The only downside was that when it was first set-up we all had to wear a uniform – blazer, smart flannels etc. Very embarrasing walking around town wearing a hub cap. Never mind; being Hull they were soo n nicked.

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  43. Miss McDoogal

    redundanthack – you reckon there will be enough subs left come 2015?

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  44. subandadrink, Melton

    Lucky you Frank. In Nottingham we all wore orange boiler suits, made to sit in alaphabetical order and were chained to the partner to our right and sat in silence. There was also a dripping tap on each table aiding the onset of insanity. A cost effective way of getting rid of subs me thinks.

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  45. redundanthack, lancashire

    Good day Miss McDoogal.
    If the JP experience is anything to go by, there will be still be jobs for overworked “content managers”
    ie former subs acting as page editors/designers/writers while the company pretends it’s a brand new job.

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  46. Ex Northcliffe Employee

    I think the real purpose of the hub was always to force local papers to make do with fewer and fewer subs and get rid of the people who had bene there a long time and were expensive (or to put it another way ‘experienced’). Now subs go back in-house at much reduced numbers and on much lower wages. The problem is, of course, that all those readers who stopped buying the paper in disgust at its sloppy production standards are now gone forever. Still, at least the whole exercise will be of use to business students as a textbook case of how not to manage any project . . .

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  47. Xsub

    What a load of rubbish some people write….. the reason the hubs are being disbanded is the same reason why all things regional or central have been removed in Northcliffe… DMGT want out so to sell off the business you need to make centres self sufficient and regardless of the cost in the short term. The hubs worked, I was one of those subs, but this is about the end of Northcliffe – nothing else, so don’t get carried away congratulating each other that this is a reverse decision because the subs failed – they didn’t but its all about ‘getting rid’ to whoever might be crazy enough to acquire a business that is in serial decline. Happy Christmas.

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  48. subandadrink, Melton

    Sorry, which hub worked? HOW?!

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