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Eleven newspapers under closure threat

Newsquest has announced proposals to close 11 newspaper titles across its North West division.

In a memo to staff yesterday, seen by HoldtheFrontPage, regional managing director Chris Hughes outlines the plans to shut ten weekly titles along with a monthly community newspaper.

A period of consultation with affected staff is now under way which will end on 7 January but it is not yet known exactly how many voluntary redundancies the company is seeking.

The affected titles are:

Blackpool Citizen
Preston Citizen
Lancaster Citizen
Westmorland Messenger
Congleton Guardian
Macclesfield Community News
Hale Community News
Knutsford Community News
Lancashire Auto Exchange
Manchester & Merseyside Auto Exchange
Wilmslow and Bramhall Community News

A number of other changes have also been included in the plans:

  • The company is proposing that the Leigh Journal is transferred from the Bolton Group into the Guardian Series, which will affect 12 employees in editorial and advertisement.
  • It is considering creating three regional editorial production hubs responsible for all sub-editing work.
  • Newspaper planning will be centralised at Blackburn for all North West titles but news gathering operations, in most cases, will not be affected.
  • In Cheshire, consideration is being given to the creation of a regional classified operation, serving the Guardian Series, Messenger and Wirral Globe. The proposal puts at risk of redundancy a number of sales positions in the Wirral and Sale offices. It is also proposed to close the Knutsford office.
  • In Lancashire and Kendal, “efficiencies are being considered in all areas”, particularly in advertisement sales departments. It is also proposed to close the Chorley office, with the staff transferring to Blackburn.
  • Regional operations manager Barry Pearson has also been placed under notice of possible redundancy.
  • The memo added: “These actions are being considered at a difficult time but with the objective of realigning the company’s cost base, with the expectation that revenues will continue to decline in 2009.

    “By successfully repositioning the business, it is expected that the company can continue to produce first class newspapers, both in print and online, that meet the needs of both readers and advertisers.

    “The business remains totally committed to publishing high quality, relevant and entertaining newspapers…..the company believes it can achieve this with greater efficiency.

    “The overall programme of restructuring is necessary to safeguard the future prospects of the company.”

    The move appears to be part of a wider company-wide cull of costs including the news that the £17m printing plant in Bolton is under threat of closure.

    HoldtheFrontPage has learned the restructure in Cheshire and Merseyside could lead to up to 30 job cuts, seven of which are editors, through office closures and restructuring.

    As a result, five community editors will be appointed to run editorial.

    A spokeswoman for Newsquest North West said no further comment would be made on the proposals.


    Mr_Osato (10/12/2008 11:07:20)
    “it is expected that the company can continue to produce first class newspapers, both in print and online, that meet the needs of both readers and advertisers”
    Be interesting to see how you meet the needs of readers and advertisers in Preston, Blackpool and Lancaster when you aren’t going to be producing newspapers there. Perhaps the mute spokeswoman could explain? Unless she’s deaf and blind as well… good to see Newsquest’s equal opprtunities policys alive as well, although maybe putting the feeble-minded in the boardroom isn’t such a wise idea.

    Robin Tudge (10/12/2008 12:23:08)
    Are these papers not profitable? Or just not profitable enough?

    Shellshocked (10/12/2008 12:32:17)
    I am delighted the regional publishing companies were successful in putting a stop to the BBC’s dreadful plans to invest £60m into local websites employing 400 journalists.
    Also great to see that they are honouring their pledges to invest so much money and resources into their newsrooms.
    Well done Trinty/Newsquest/Johnsons et al.

    Jan (10/12/2008 12:34:25)
    Quite how the Preston Citizen isn’t profitable is beyond me. It wasn’t so long ago that it was massive paper, packed with advertising. Perhaps moving all the ad reps to Chorley a year ago has sent some sort of message to advertisers in Preston. Makes you wonder.

    Lucy (10/12/2008 15:07:27)
    Mr Osato, Newsquest long gave up on its readers when it started to slash jobs on its weeklies three years ago. How can journalists be expected to find ‘real’ news if they haven’t got time to leave the office to go to court, police meetings, council meetings or even ‘meet the people’? It’s great for us in PR who send stuff through knowing it will defo be used because the journalists have got nothing else, but it’s hardly quality journalism! Good luck all the reporters etc affected.

    Banker (10/12/2008 15:23:53)
    I smell a deal struck between Johnson and Newsquest. Pulling out of Blackpool and Preston will give Johnson free rein in both towns – maybe Newsquest will now see an upsurge in internet sales perhaps. Watch this space!

    Death of local journalism (10/12/2008 16:45:40)
    “The business remains totally committed to publishing high quality, relevant and entertaining newspapers…..the company believes it can achieve this with greater efficiency.”
    What a load of bobbins.

    Anne Loader (11/12/2008 10:44:37)
    When Newsquest made me redundant as a local newspaper editor in 1995 I started a publishing venture producing, among other things, the autobiographies of interesting ‘ordinary’ people. One of our books, Mid-Cheshire Memories Volume 1, was an anthology covering several occupations that have died, such as a fireman on a steam locomotive, a farm horseman and a shipbuilder. If I wait a couple of years, I should be able to write Volume 2 about the quaint old-fashioned occupation of local newspaper reporting and editing.

    mis understood (18/12/2008 19:29:20)
    This will leave a void in Blackpool, im afraid i agree that a deal has been done. In this economic climate local advertisers can now expect to be fleeced by johnston press, many of which have been using the citizen platform for over twenty years, good read, regular advertising, no profit! rubbish!! redundancies for good key players both in editorial and advertising, truth!! Mr Hughes how do you sleep at night !

    preston citizen staff member (07/01/2009 22:29:19)
    Ive worked at Preston Citzen and during the credit crunch the revenues have dropped considerably, the office was moved from preston to chorley because the lease came to an end and it was cheaper to move to the big chorley office than pay for an expensive town centre one- plus newsquest could then pay one manager to manage preston and chorley- nicola the manager said she would take on both offices as long as she could move to chorley, as the office was near her home!!! big clients started dropping from the paper well before the move- some just couldnt afford the advertising any more, adverts were done incorrectly because the graphics teams were snowed under, some nights sales staff were waiting until 11pm for their proofs to come back! then there was the delivery of the paper- they just couldnt find enough people to do the job! ………so there it is. yes the paper was un profitable…. and theyd rather put all the attention into the strong dailys, id say thats sensible!?