AddThis SmartLayers

Regional mornings to merge content desks

Two regional morning dailies are to merge their content desks and come under a single editor-in-chief as part of a wide-ranging shake-up which puts more than 30 jobs at risk.

The Plymouth-based Western Morning News and Bristol-based Western Daily Press are to combine a series of ‘back office’ functions including production and content management.

Morning News editor Alan Qualtrough is to take over as editor-in-chief of the two titles, while Daily Press editor Andy Wright is to retire.

The changes, which were announced to staff this afternoon, are part of a major restructuring of publisher Northcliffe’s South West operation which will also see the creation of a centralised subbing hub in Plymouth.

The new hub will be responsible for production of The Herald, Plymouth, the Herald Express, Torquay, and the Express and Echo, Exeter, with more than 20 sub-editing posts in Torquay and Exeter potentially at risk.

However production of the Morning News itself will move to the existing subbing hub at Bristol, with content management for the Daily Press moving in the opposite direction to Plymouth.

Also at risk are around 11 posts in Bristol, including three sports subs, two reporters and some specialist digital staff.

Although the two titles will retain separate reporting teams, they will also undergo a redesign which will give them a similar look and feel.

Mr Qualtrough said: “This is an exciting project to relaunch two newspapers for the modern market.

“We believe the changes we are proposing will have a positive effect on both the Western Morning News and the Western Daily Press.”

Mike Norton, editor-in-chief of the Wales and West titles, added: “These are structural changes which will have a positive effect on the Western Daily Press. While the paper’s content will not change, it will be driven by a new content desk with a radar screen covering the entire South West.

“I’m sure, too, that readers will appreciate the Press’ stunning redesign. This could the beginning of a new lease of life and an exciting new era for the Western Daily Press.”

The announcements were made to staff in five separate but simultaneous briefings this afternoon in Bristol, Plymouth, Exeter, Torquay, and Truro, home of weekly stablemate Cornwall and Devon Media.

Existing WDP content desk staff will be given the opportunity to apply for jobs at the new centralised content desk in Plymouth, although the two centres are 133 miles apart.

Because the Morning News/Daily Press proposal will only involve up to 11 redundancies there will be no formal collective consultation on that aspect of the plans.

However the proposed creation of the Plymouth subbing hub will require a formal consultation period as more than 20 roles in Exeter and Torquay are potentially affected.


Miss McDoogal (08/03/2010 15:29:56)
Will the last person working for Northcliffe please turn off the lights.

Steve Hutchings (08/03/2010 15:55:08)
This has been on the cards for some considerable time now and, I would predict, worse is to come – to have four daily newspapers between Exeter and Plymouth, all losing circulation and, arguably, having lost their way editorially, has been, sadly, a completely unsustainable situation. There will be more bad news before lights out!!

Scoopster35 (08/03/2010 16:11:38)
AGGHH! Why, every time this happens, some editor says things are exciting? How is this exciting? Just be honest, please please please! If you say such a restructuring is the only way to safeguard the future of newspapers in the area and protect as may jobs as possible, then most people, affected by this or not, will at least sigh and say that’s life. But an ‘exciting project’? Get a grip son

Old hack and Proud (08/03/2010 16:26:52)
Yup! Exciting.
Thirty journalists thrown out of work, quit your life and mover 130 miles away, if you’re lucky to get a job in the new set-up.

Hacked Off (08/03/2010 16:34:22)
Wow, this plan’s so complicated I had to read it through twice to understand! Still sounds completely barmy though.

Wageslave (08/03/2010 16:56:29)
It’s symptomatic of how out of touch management are that on a website read almost entirely by journalists (most of them in this case their own employees) they still feel it’s appropriate to attempt to mask the reasons for their decisions, which are well known to us all, under this veneer of glib PR b*ll*cks which most of us have spent our professional lives decoding. Give us some credit; some of us have probably been in the business longer than you have. Spin doesn’t beguile us; it makes us even more suspicious. We’re trained to spot the real story under the layers of self-serving dross; it’s called being a journalist.

hilary (08/03/2010 17:09:09)
Next up: The South-West Press & News…

Miss McDoogal (08/03/2010 17:10:39)
From what I gather, they haven’t been officially told in Bristol.

Worker (09/03/2010 10:23:53)
What’s a “content desk”? More brilliant decisions from the marketing men, accountants and jumped-up little ad reps.

Watcher (09/03/2010 10:31:51)
“Jumped-up Ad reps” pay the bills but of course many journalists are too self-absorbed and arrogant to get this.

newsed (09/03/2010 10:36:51)
I want one of these radar screens!

The Englishman (09/03/2010 10:39:28)
As the other people have said…what a nauseating comment from the editor – ‘exciting’ is an appalling choice.

bothsidesnow (09/03/2010 10:42:05)
Watcher: No, it’s REAL ad reps who pay the bills. The jumped-up little ad reps, ie, the ones who’ve been Peter Principled into positions where they think they know all about the editorial side of newspapers as well as just selling ads, who are the problem here. As to the real ad reps – there aren’t enough of them to do their jobs properly any more than there are editorial staff nowadays. Each one is covering so many jobs that a really bright idea – a good supplement for example – is not worked on until days before production deadline, so they simply don’t have the time to sell space into it. It goes down from 36 pages to 12 to 8 to 4 and eventually just looks silly. Meanwhile, the jumped-up ad rep at the top blames the ad reps for not working hard enough!

Steve Dyson (09/03/2010 10:47:44)
What’s puzzling is how certain elements of this plan are proposed to work. Agree with it or not, we all ‘get’ central subbing hubs, esp. the south coast one, in terms of understanding how that can work. The Plymouth and Bristol mornings being subbed together is a little more challenging, because of the distance/local knowledge, but it can be done. But how can one man, editor-in-chief Alan Q, edit two papers 133 miles apart? And how can the ‘content hubs’ desk both mornings from one site? I realise that the htfp report is only a topline summary, but this is the part that reads almost ‘anti-local’ to me. I guess Alan will have to appoint ‘duty’ editors or ‘executive’ editors in each centre, and they will be the hands-on editors, while he floats almost as editorial director. But will this hands-on requirement mean than the two centres don’t have an editor out in the community, listening to the powers that be and readers, delivering assemblies and all the events that raise the profile and reputation of a newspaper? Especially when the mornings’ desk-heads are also only in one place. That’s the difficult one for me. But Alan Q is an experienced player, so I’m sure he has a plan to deal with this. He’ll need to, as he just cannot be in two places at once without diluting the profile of both papers. I just hope the change is worth it: will the loss/savings of 11 staff on the mornings equal enough cost benefit to justify such change, with all the risks this entails?

the Man in the Iron Mask (09/03/2010 11:00:15)
Excellent. A perfectly legitimate comment with regard to my opinion of Alan Qualtrough has been removed. How long before the
faciity to post any comment on this story is withdrawn?!

Paul Linford, Editor (09/03/2010 11:08:05)
Man in the Iron Mask, unfortunately you ruined what was otherwise a perfectly sensible and well-argued comment by making a series of offensive personal remarks about Alan Qualtrough in the final sentence. As you will see from reading our comments policy gratuitous personal attacks on individual journalists are not allowed on this site. I have no plans to withdraw the comments facility on this story generally.

hilary (09/03/2010 12:51:06)
Steve Dyson: See my comment from yesterday. Your comments only reinforce my suspicions!

the Man in the Iron Mask (09/03/2010 14:33:17)
Does anyone know how many subs, who may be affected by this decision, there are in Torquay?

Steve Hutchings (09/03/2010 15:47:48)
Re: Subs at Torquay
There used to be six or seven but this figure may well have fallen to four or five now.

Steve Dyson (09/03/2010 15:48:59)
Oo, don’t wish for it, Hilary!! Remember that the industry is desperate for new, or rehashed, business models. A regionally-based national news agency that, as a sideline, produces content for local papers? It might be liked…

Shuttleboy (09/03/2010 16:34:20)
“Content desk” – is that what these papers will have instead of a newsdesk? I suppose it’s fitting now that most regionals don’t really do news.

Buster Nineshoes (09/03/2010 16:54:27)
“This is an exciting project to relaunch two newspapers for the modern market.
“We believe the changes we are proposing will have a positive effect on both the Western Morning News and the Western Daily Press.”
Heard the same bullcrap with the Birmingham Post and Mail. Never mind the quality feel the width…. It’s all cutting costs what ever spin you put on it. If you had a press release drop on your desk with that in it what would you think? C’mon, we work in the industry. We know the smell!

ex “adrep” (10/03/2010 10:31:47)
The lights went out on Northcliffe’s South West offering many years ago. Its just that some dedicated journalists left the key in the meter (10/03/2010 10:32:10)
This time last year, the Western Daily Press had a full team of 20 off journalists/photographers/editorial staff. As of next month it will consist entirely of two WDP reporters. Exciting isn’t really the word. It’s depressing.

Confused of Northcliffe (10/03/2010 11:21:49)
Firstly, I have genuine sympathy for everyone caught up in the fallout of this.
At the same time, can anyone explain to me how it is that the subbing of the WMN moves to Bristol but rather than go with it the erstwhile WMN subs are going to sub the Exeter and Torquay papers in Plymouth?!
Surely, common sense – not to mention employment law – would suggest that the Exeter paper should be subbed in that city and the Torquay one there. Failing that, that the two papers are subbed in Plymouth by the people, with the local knowledge, who subbed them previously.

Mick Tems (10/03/2010 11:29:56)
“Exciting”? Mike Norton’s just become a sorry management excuse for a paper that performed a useful service until greedy Northcliffe vultures got their hands on it. Concerned and caring journalists don’t believe Norton’s spin for one minute – welcome to the management industry, Mike!

Beano Bob, St.Neots (10/03/2010 12:37:26)

8pointon9 (11/03/2010 10:27:41)
Received in post this am:
“Dear Colleague, I am very pleased to announce the launch of the DMGT SharePurchase+ and to invite you, as an eligible UK-based employee of a participating DMGT company to join the new plan.”
I reply:

Steve Hutchings (11/03/2010 11:59:50)
UPDATE: It is my understanding that the Chief Sub and News Editor left the Herald Express in Torquay yesterday afternoon – obviously linked to all the above!

Freddie (11/03/2010 12:21:12)
No one wants cutbacks and redundancies but while it’s easy to say the papers ‘have lost their way’ and they ‘don’t know what they’re doing’ we hear precious little suggestions which would actually work in he current climate. When I became a sub in the 1990s, mistakes were still being made with the exception that the department had about 25 people producing … about 25 pages. Design was crap, subbing was no better than it is now, circulation was going down. It’s easy to hark back to halcyon days but in reality, subs spent long lunchtimes in the pub, long hours moaning and much of the rest of the time filling out imaginary expense claims. I worked with a sub – old school, real top operator, people called him – who never went the extra mile, clocked off exactly on time and spent most of his day walking backwards and forwards to the proofer. Get real, people. Instead of moans, let’s hear how you would do it. And please don’t say “take on 20 extra reporters and subs … it’s all about quality”. We need to be more imaginative than that.

Steve Hutchings (12/03/2010 12:49:59)
While I can empathise with the generalisation that ‘Freddie’ makes I would point out, as a simple fact, that during the Falklands Conflict the Southern Evening Echo at Southampton had a first class Chief Sub in the form of Chris Barrat, yes it also had in the region of 12 subs, but we were also producing seven editions a day!!! The subs were first class. The paper was on the button and the daily circulation was in the region of 80,000! The excitement and commitment on the subs desk was palpable. So, yes, while it is easy to say that some papers have lost their way and that, in some instances, it is a contributory factor to their demise, the facts are there to support the assertion. In many respects it was a golden era exemplified by those journalists who were part of it.