A crisis meeting of National Union of Journalist reps from the UK’s big four newspaper groups is to be held tomorrow in the wake of one of the industry’s blackest weeks in living memory.
The past five days have seen a spate of job cuts across the regional press as publishers attempt to offset the impact of the economic downturn.
Tomorrow, union representatives from the four biggest publishers – Trinity Mirror, Newsquest, Johnston Press and Northcliffe – will hold a crisis meeting in London.
They will meet with NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear in an attempt to thrash out a plan of action against the wave of redundancies currently gripping the industry, including lobbying MPs and possibly strikes.
Mr Dear told HoldtheFrontPage: “Our aim is to co-ordinate industrial responses to it but also a wider, political campaign about the future of local media which we believe has a vital role but which local media companies are happy to allow to wither away.
“Among our members there was huge shock that’s now turned to anger. They’re angry about what’s happened to all the profits they’ve made over the last ten years.
“We want some short-term concrete plans from the meeting and then some longer term plans and ideas.
“The obvious example would be AGMs when shareholders will be there and also some events in the run-up to Christmas.”
Mr Dear said yesterday’s Trinity Mirror North West announcement was “one of the severest levels of cuts” seen in the regional titles.
The latest shake-up comes just as the impact of the earlier restructuring at the group’s Midlands titles is being felt, with district offices closing in Sutton Coldfield today and Lichfield and Tamworth in the coming weeks.
Experienced media commentator Jon Slattery said on his blog yesterday: “Barring a newspaper closing down, today must rank as one of the bleakest in the history of the British Press with job cuts being announced across the country.
“It is the scale of the cuts that is so frightening…..and no doubt there is more to come, both on national and regional newspapers.
“I covered the newspaper industry for 23 years at Press Gazette and in all that time I don’t remember anything remotely as bad as this.”
Lister (28/11/2008 13:02:41)
There is no doubt that a united response is needed against what is obviously a united and callous attack on jobs, wages, working conditions and the quality publications we produce. This is not just about dedicated, loyal and hard-working journalists facing the dole queues and being forced to accept wage freezes, this is also about the wholesale dismantling of a profitable industry to fill the bank accounts of people who contribute little in return. We could have the upper hand here, because what the big four do not want is an unnecessary fight that’s going to cost them money. This is a chance – and undoubtedly the last one – to take the fight to the publishers instead of being on the back foot every time. Go for it!
neil (28/11/2008 15:44:10)
I fear all you will achieve will be to hasten the pace of job losses. You need to wake up and appreciate that your print audiences are dwindling and you are no longer producing products that are as desirable or as essential as they were 10 years ago.
Dreading the future (28/11/2008 15:54:30)
Your list of job losses does not include the ten people (out of 30)made redundant in the East London and West Essex Guardian series editorial department. Two edition editors, four subs, a sports editor, two photographers and a part-time sports reporter have already left or will be gone by Christmas. Ironically, the series is now advertising for a couple of “multi-skilled journalists” (ie subs who will do that job while teaching reporters to sub, making films and contributing to the website). A cut too far, perhaps? As some other people have commented, this multi-skilled speak is just a snokescreen for cutting experienced staff. The horrible truth is that local papers of quality (and local websites of quality, and local videos of quality) will soon be a thing of the past with too few people trying to do too many jobs and becoming expert in none of them. And the biggest losers after the journalists and photographers have gone will be the local populations who will lose the press which has fought their corner, kept them informed of the things which the authorities would prefer to keep hidden, campaigned for them, provided them with vital information and chronicled their lives. The future is bleak, to say the least.
Mr_Osato (28/11/2008 16:05:01)
Neil, the audience is bigger than ever, the problem is the management lack the confidence, vision, nous and balls to steer journalism through a cyclical downturn in advertising while convincing the city of their ability to turn a profit. so they’re panicking, cutting back and hoping to cling on to their jobs for a few more months rather than taking bold, decisive steps they need to. And if they all do the same thing, at the same time, they’ll hope nobody points out what the Emperor’s New Clothes really are. This is where the NUJ, and industrial action, come in. Blow the whistle on the management, force them to sell and return regional journalism to the regions!
Chris Youett, Esq, (28/11/2008 16:42:09)
These unncessary rounds of cuts have nothing to do with new media, multi-platform, BBC, ITV, local radio, etc. It is all about inflating the share values of the major media employers so that the management can maximise their bonuses when those companies are dumped onto the market in two years’ time.
For example, Trinity Mirror’s three daily titles have lost 200 journalists. Yet it wouldn’t even cost Mrs Bailey £1 million a year to reverse those cuts.
There is a direct link between journalist staffing levels and circulation. Get circulation going up again due to investing in real news and advertisers will want to spend their budgets again.
We need media management with vision, not greedy burghers trying to make a fast short-term buck. A 10-fold increase in marketing budget (again very little extra expenditure to media employers) would also help.
Realist (01/12/2008 10:53:46)
While the NUJ reps are there, someone should tackle Mr Dear about his scandalous support of the BBC Local Video plans that would have decimated any future that regional newspapers might have had in multimedia