Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield has defended the company’s programme of office closures as it emerged that two more weekly newspapers are to lose their bases.
Journalists at the Haverhill Echo and Newmarket Journal are to be based in Bury St Edmunds from September with their current offices due to close at the end of next month.
But Mr Highfield has made clear the current round of closures will continue, arguing that by selling them off, the company will release funds to ensure its remaining offices are “fit for purpose.”
The company has unveiled what it is calling a Staff Working Environment Charter that promises ‘appropriate accommodation’ by the end of 2013 as well as giving journalists the ‘right tools’ to do their jobs.
Mr Highfield said in an e-mail to all staff: “Many of you raised concerns about your working environment in the staff survey and the Charter is intended to address these by reshaping our property portfolio and raising cash while retaining a more appropriate and manageable office network that can be better maintained and will be fit for purpose as we move forward.”
In a statement issued to HTFP, the company said it was reviewing the number of offices it has and intends to sell off those it no longer needs.
“The aim is to release funds to improve the remaining offices to ensure they are ‘fit-for-purpose’ offices and staff have the technology they need to work remotely where appropriate. The strategy will also help the company continue to pay down its debt,” it said.
“Wherever offices have already, or will, shut, the title will of course continue to be published and fully supported. The reporters and sales staff will be given the tools (iPads, smartphones, laptops, etc as necessary) to enable them to work more flexibly and maintain a highly visible presence in their community, including continuing with established contact points, reporter surgeries and, where appropriate, a presence in the premises of other community organisations. At the same time JP is significantly investing in its titles with a rolling relaunch programme.”
The latest closure announcement will see journalists at the two Suffolk titles work out of the offices of sister title the Bury Free Press, 18 miles away from Haverhill and 15 from Newmarket.
The move was announced to staff in a statement from Richard Parkinson, managing director of JP’s Anglia Newspapers division.
It said: “Anglia Newspapers Ltd announced the proposal to close the Haverhill and Newmarket offices following a review of the reception office foot-fall and business activity in the towns.
“As a result if this proposal there would be a headcount reduction of 1.6 FTE. Prior to any implementation, the company will consult extensively and it is anticipated that this consultation process will be complete by 31 August 2012.”
Other recent announcements have seen the closure of five newspaper offices in Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire, three in West Yorkshire and two in the North-East.
Contrary to a report in a national newspaper, however, none of the actual titles affected by the closures are themselves ceasing publication.