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Jobs under threat at North East papers

Seven editorial jobs look set to be lost at The Northern Echo and its sister weekly papers as Newsquest continues to tighten its belt.

Staff were told on Friday that two assistant editor posts on The Northern Echo had been earmarked for redundancy, along with two part-time subs on the Advertiser free series, one researcher and two subs’ messengers.

The reporting and photography teams of the Echo and the weekly Darlington & Stockton Times are to be merged, with everyone producing news and pictures for both titles.

Both newspapers will continue to have separate identities, with the Times still having its own editor and sub-editors, but some staff fear it is the “beginning of the end” for the weekly paid-for title.

National Union of Journalists regional organiser Miles Barter told HoldtheFrontPage: “The union is concerned about the future of the Darlington & Stockton Times, which is an old newspaper that has effectively been merged.”

David Kelly, managing director Newsquest (North East), declined to comment.

A 28-day consultation period is now underway.

At an NUJ chapel meeting yesterday union members said there would be no industrial action if compulsory redundancies were avoided.

Father of chapel Adam Murray said: “Staff on the Darlington & Stockton Times fear for their futures – they worked for a weekly and now they have been told they work for a daily. They need assurances about training etc.”

The Northern Echo has an average circulation of 53,988 (Mon – Fri, ABC July to Dec 2005), while the Darlington & Stockton Times sells 28,960.

Meanwhile at the York Evening Press, where nine editorial jobs are under threat, ballot papers for industrial action have gone out to members. The result will be known on March 24.

And at Lancashire, an editorial reorganisation has been announced, with one feature writer and one copy taker job at the Evening Telegraph cut and the postholders redeployed.

At its sister weekly series, The Citizen, which covers Preston, Chorley and Blackpool, one joint news editor is to replace the current three edition-based posts, and the vacant Blackpool editor’s position.

Staff have been told that the company is confident that most of the people affected will be found a suitable alternative position and they are not seeking voluntary redundancies at this stage.

This follows an earlier announcement that the Lancashire Evening Telegraph is to close its district offices in Burnley, Accrington and Darwen, with staff transferring to the paper’s head office in Blackburn.