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17 job losses announced at Northern Echo

Managers at the Northern Echo and its sister weeklies today announced the loss of 17 editorial posts and the closure of five district offices on top of a pay freeze imposed yesterday.

In a memo to staff today, editor Peter Barron said there would have to be “significant changes” to the way the papers operate.

Parent company Newsquest North East is also proposing to close district offices in Stockton, Redcar, Barnard Castle, Richmond and Thirsk, with staff there being relocated.

National Union of Journalists members at the paper are to hold a meeting on Monday to consider their response to the plans.

The memo stated: “Due to the rapidly deteriorating economic outlook, and the severe impact on advertising revenues across all our titles, Newsquest North-East has been asked to identify further cost savings to reflect our expected trading performance in 2009.

“In editorial, these amount to the loss of approximately 17 posts which will have to involve significant changes to the way the department operates.

“We very much regret to have to make this announcement, particularly now, but the timing has been dictated by the accelerating rate of the economic decline.

“We appreciate how hard staff are working in the most challenging times for the local newspaper industry, and how difficult it is going to be to implement these changes.”

The news comes hard on the heels of a freeze on pay increases for the first quarter of 2009 which was issued to Newsquest North East staff yesterday.

The National Union of Journalists said its local chapel had been in negotiations with management over a 3pc pay increase due to come into force on 1 January.

But yesterday’s memo to editorial staff at the Darlington centre said no pay awards were being made in the January review with April 2009 the next time any possible increases would occur.

The move mirrors a similar announcement from Trinity Mirror on Wednesday.

The Darlington centre produces The Northern Echo, The Darlington and Stockton Times, the Durham Times and the Advertiser Series.

There were increasing signs today that the ruling is being applied throughout the Newsquest group, with staff at both Newsquest Wiltshire and the group’s Kendal centre revealing they have been sent a similarly-worded memo.

The memo from Newsquest North East managing director David Coates said: “In the light of further deterioration in trading conditions, we have decided that no pay rises are being made following the January 2009 review.

“An additional assessment of pay will take place on 1 April 2009 and any increase awarded at that time will apply from 1 April 2009.

NUJ Northern Regional Organiser Chris Morley today described the company’s plans as a “double whammy” for staff.

“This is nothing less than vandalism on a great institution of the North – the hacking away of much of what makes the Northern Echo and associated weekly papers an important part of their communities,” he said.

Darlington Father of Chapel Adam Murray added: “When circulation figures are plunging around the country, the Northern Echo has bucked the trend to some extent and this is the reward for its journalists’ efforts.

“Closing the district offices is tantamount to waving goodbye to the communities that have been served by the paper for a century.”

  • In a separate development, Newsquest is pushing ahead with its plans to close the Lancaster and Morecambe Citizen offices and relocate staff to Blackburn. Company insiders have told HoldtheFrontPage that the move is expected to be complete within the next week.

    It was revealed last week that the Lancaster base could be closed with advertising and editorial moved 30 miles, leaving one mobile reporter based in Lancaster itself. Newsquest Blackburn MD Jan Lever declined to comment.

  • Comments

    Insider (21/11/2008 13:58:54)
    A further 17 editorial jobs are likely to go in the Northern Echo, with Advertising cuts to follow.

    Hilary Jones (21/11/2008 15:55:02)
    Perhaps the BBC should have been allowed to set up its ultra-local stations. After all, we who live in district office areas will need to get our local news from somewhere – and it sure as hell won’t be from the ‘local’ newspaper any more. This district office closure thing is a bit like the Post Office. Since the Beeb wouldn’t have been taking advertising, I expect the newspaper management would have been able to convince Fred Bloggs Motors et al to continue to take space in the print product even though it no longer properly covered his area! (joke)

    wheresmedeskgone? (24/11/2008 19:54:42)
    How to dismantle a newspaper in five months. How on earth these titles can absord a second round of redundancies so soon after the first and still put out a product people want to buy I do not know.
    I always thought this was still a profitable centre and not a loss-maker and that the staffing level had already been pared down to the bone. It’s a real smack in the face for the staff after all their efforts and morale must be at rock bottom.

    Ben Lui (25/11/2008 11:46:31)
    Tip of the iceberg this. WT Stead showed Newsquest the way