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More job cuts at Johnston Press, Highfield warns staff

Further editorial redundancies are to be made across Johnston Press titles following an video announcement to staff by chief executive Ashley Highfield.

In a video broadcast to all JP staff earlier this week, Ashley said the company needed to go further in its cost-cutting drive due to the “changing demands” of readers and advertisers, and confirmed there would be redundancies at “one or two” of JP’s regional publishing units.

JP has declined to confirm the numbers and locations affected, but the National Union of Journalists has claimed that up to 19 jobs will go at the publisher’s Yorkshire businesses.

Titles said to be affected include the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, Scarborough News, Halifax Courier series and Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group.

According to the union, staff have been told the editorial budget would be reduced by eight per cent.

It says that between 15 and 19 jobs could go, equivalent to one per title, by the end of March.

The NUJ’s Johnston Press group chapel said: “Our members have been left shocked by today’s announcement. It’s difficult to see how further job losses, which leave newsrooms struggling to function, are the way forward.

“Staffing is already at crisis point, leading to excessive hours and workloads and rock-bottom morale, as evidenced in a recent stress survey by the NUJ. We are seeking meaningful negotiations with the company to explore ways of avoiding job losses.”

In the video, Ashley said: “Where we have had to make them, we do not make these decisions lightly, although, of course, that’s of no consolation to those who have been or will be affected personally by these changes.

“We will work as hard as we can to make sure those facing redundancy receive the best level of support we can give through the process.

“These tough decisions are an essential part of securing a viable future for the vast majority of our teams.”

Decisions on staff cuts will be taken at a local level, overseen by the company’s senior leadership team and managing director.

Ashley also used the speech to highlight the ‘Newsroom of the Future’ pilot trialled in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, which has seen staff at its titles there combined into two teams – a ‘news team’ tasked with seeking out and developing stories, and a ‘communities content team’ which cultivates stories submitted by readers.

He added the strategy “would be a key part of how we adapt to this changing environment”, and there were no plans to close any paid-for print products.

Ashley said: “I am well aware we cannot simply reduce our staff numbers without a plan of how we are going to manage workloads.

“We are acutely aware we need to mitigate the impact on those who remain in the business.”

The latest announcements follow the company’s interim management statement last month, which stated the group would be implementing “further efficiency and restructuring initiatives”.

Since then, it has been announced that between 35 and 45 jobs are set to go at its flagship titles The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News, while staff photographer roles have been axed across the north of England the Scottish Borders over recent weeks.

Ashley added: “The reality is that, whilst revenue decline is slowing, as a result of the hard work and measures taking place across our business, we still face the challenge of offsetting print revenue decline through digital and mobile growth and, while we are beginning to make great inroads here, the challenge remains.

“We are not quite at the tipping point.”

42 comments

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  • November 26, 2014 at 5:36 pm
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    Well, at least he avoided the word “exciting”. But for the people affected, especially those with mortgages and children, this is another sickening blow. And on it goes…

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  • November 26, 2014 at 5:57 pm
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    Be careful. Since taking over the Kettering Evening Telegraph the paper my have been saved from extinction but is now just a mess of adverts with little in the way of local news.

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  • November 26, 2014 at 7:34 pm
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    Some fine papers must rue the day they came across JP.
    As for Mr H his only leadership seems to involve more announcements about job losses.
    Come what may he will walk out eventually with a big pay-off, unlike those he gets rid of.That’s the sickening part, plus the enforced decline of once proud papers. When will this all end?

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  • November 26, 2014 at 8:52 pm
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    Quite frankly those offered a paid way out will be the lucky ones. Those who remain will be left with an impossible task – and doubtless a nervous breakdown. So glad I’m out of it all. Tragic times for an industry I still love – despite JP’s best efforts to squeeze all the life out of it.

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  • November 26, 2014 at 11:58 pm
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    I work in advertising and like many others in this area of the business can see than there might be gains in digital but most is not by making more money out of the clients additional to their print spend – but knocking money off the print and packaging in online.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 8:56 am
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    Great news. A positive move by Ashley, and a necessary one.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 9:01 am
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    The NUJ’s Johnston Press group chapel said: “Our members have been left shocked by today’s announcement.”

    They really ought not to be.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 9:03 am
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    Careful Mr H – there’ll soon be no-one left to sack and what will you do then?
    .

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  • November 27, 2014 at 9:05 am
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    ‘Newsroom of the future’ … staffed by 60-hour-a-week zombies.
    Disgraceful.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 9:24 am
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    It beggars belief that companies like JP are prepared to depend so much on advertising online as a revenue stream.
    What web user in his right mind allows sites to use up his precious bandwith when there utlities out there which very successfully remove adverts from web pages easily and very effectively.
    I browse many, many newspaper websites but am very, very rarely bothered with advertisements.
    When I was in the industry as a page designer, I hated advertisements. Now its time for revenge.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 9:40 am
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    Staggered to read there are still people there to be made redundant!!

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  • November 27, 2014 at 9:55 am
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    He likes his videos doesn’t he? Keeps the distance between him and us mere mortals. But to announce that more jobs are at risk via a pre recorded video is disgusting. I feel for everyone who will be affected by yet more JP cuts. Will the top brasses be getting their bonuses I wonder….

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  • November 27, 2014 at 10:45 am
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    Merry Christmas! Now everyone working in those centres have to endure a time of agony and anxiety, not knowing who the axe is going to fall upon. Most likely they’ll be forced to suffer the humiliation and degradation of competing against their co-workers for their own job (as I was before I took VR, and I’d not wish that stress upon my worst enemy)

    Timed as it was, and so cruelly disassociated from any kind of human interaction, this sickening move clearly demonstrates the detached, calculating accountancy mindset that rules JP’s top management. Hard-working journalists and editors with years-worth of experienced are reduced to mere ‘cost units’, numbers upon a spreadsheet to be streamlined, reduced, balanced oout of the equation with aboslutely zero consideration for the impact of the titles they work upon, and the communities they serve – reduced to ‘products’, filled with ‘content’.

    And then we have people like ”JP Shareholder’ commenting above.

    “Great news. A positive move by Ashley, and a necessary one.”

    Are you an internet troll of some kind, or are you being serious? The temporary few quid you might make in increased prices worth the cost of employees lives thrown onto the scrap heap?

    If you’re being serious, the word ‘repugnant’ hardly begins to cover it.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 11:09 am
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    Who needs journalists when you can get the bloke down the pub to do it for free?
    And then when he’s done it for free, you can flog the mish-mash of badly-written copy, dreadful photograhs and horrendous ads back to him for inflated prices.
    Newsroom of the future? Presumably one with no lights in it to save time in anyone switching them off.
    Meanwhile, at Tindle, papers being opened and bonuses for staff.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 11:25 am
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    Will the last one out the door kindly turn out the lights!

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  • November 27, 2014 at 11:40 am
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    Merry Christmas JP-style

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  • November 27, 2014 at 11:48 am
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    JP has been chasing big web income for years and not cracked it.
    It has at the same deliberately wrecked newspaper sales and with it lost income.
    You don’t need a crystal ball to see the future,
    Perhaps the unstated policy is to eventually give advertisers no choice but to go on (much cheaper to run) web and either close all the papers or have them as grim free papers (have your seen some of the existing ones?).
    I am immensely sad to say that for my sake and thousands of others and never hoped more that I have got it all wrong.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm
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    I gather that in this new JP world, the ‘news team’ will be trained journalists. The ‘communities content team’ will not.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm
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    The time has come for staff to take a stand. I know how many extra unpaid hours I used to work, arrive early, work through lunch, stay late. I would never do it again because my efforts were unappreciated.

    The NUJ should tell Ashley that as of now, members are logging their hours and that while staff are not refusing to do the work, editors will be invoiced on the 31st of every month to cover the previously unpaid work.

    If JP doesn’t want to pay for this overtime, which is necessary due to previous cost-cutting, then they will need to come up with a work around. If there is no work around then staff need to make clear that they have other things to do outside work and that they need to leave on time.

    Let’s be clear… I am not suggesting that people walk off the job now. But there does come a time when JP has to understand that the cuts are too many and too deep and if busy staff are taking on the workload of those who have left then they were not redundant in the first place.

    As for JP Shareholder. You’re an idiot, pal.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 1:45 pm
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    “Great news. A positive move by Ashley, and a necessary one” by JP Shareholder

    How is job losses ‘great news’ ? Is there any need for such insensitivity?

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  • November 27, 2014 at 2:00 pm
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    This seems to be the JP way. What ever their agenda is it most certainly is not the health of the local newspaper industry in this country. Can anyone enlighten me?

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  • November 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm
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    I was hoping JP Shareholder was a spoof message. Surely no-one would be that arrogant and dunderheaded. There will soon be no quality product left to sell to advertisers. Quality and local content seems to be of no concern to those who run JP. Filling space is the mantra. Who will pay top dollar to advertise in paid-for village newsletters?

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  • November 27, 2014 at 3:33 pm
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    What you going to do when you’re shares are worthless, when JP goes bust!!!!!!

    JP Shareholder
    November 27, 2014 at 8:56 am
    Great news. A positive move by Ashley, and a necessary one.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 4:19 pm
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    Goneboy
    November 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm
    I gather that in this new JP world, the ‘news team’ will be trained journalists. The ‘communities content team’ will not.

    oh yes sir – students with links to local unis

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  • November 27, 2014 at 4:41 pm
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    Why do so many people bury their heads in the sand? There is nothing that can be done to stem the reduction in print, perhaps slow it a little, but it will all but disappear, perhaps with some specialist publications remaining. Credit where credit is due, Mr H picked up a flagging company and is doing something positive to swing it into a position is can contribute to local news in the future – which is what it has always done – just in a different medium – if this had been done earlier then the changes would be less dramatic, what you get for letting people obsessed with papers and not news run JP

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  • November 27, 2014 at 4:45 pm
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    JP staff are remarkably resilient considering the muck that is constantly thrown at them. And most of the papers, although no longer nowhere near as good as they were, are half decent considering the disturbing staff levels. Lions led by donkeys and all that….

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  • November 27, 2014 at 5:16 pm
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    JP Shareholder – you may think this a positive and necessary move, but to call it “great news” is incredible, not to mention sickening to those affected by it. Are you serious? How can reducing the quality of titles, so many redundancies, lowering of staff morale be great news? Highfield should be trying to keep print revenues as high as possible, for as long as possible, in order to allow time for digital to grow and have a hope of making up for the loss of print. Instead, he seems set on a course of hastening the demise of it. I thought the YEP was due for yet another redesign in January: that should be interesting. I’m sure the staff in Leeds will really want to give it their all!

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  • November 27, 2014 at 5:22 pm
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    For what it’s worth guys, my independent weekly The Press has seen print ad revenues up more than 10% year on year in 2014 with newspaper sales steady (we’re hybrid) despite increasing both doorstep and bulk deliveries. Admittedly, for a great deal of that, I have Ashley Highfield and his band of talented brothers and sisters to thank. 5% salary increases for most full-time staff, plenty bonuses, and the boss pays for the Christmas knees up! It might only be Dewsbury/Batley, but these days it is certainly ‘our’ Dewsbury/Batley, not JP’s. Some of you should give it a go. Always happy to advise!

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  • November 27, 2014 at 6:48 pm
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    Ex JP, Peterborough is right. Print is more or less a dead duck.
    But if JP wants to carry on selling its adverts, they have to appear on a platform that is worth reading. Ashley etc seem to think editorial content is just an ever-cuttable commodity. It isn’t – it’s the lifeblood of what they’re trying to sell.

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  • November 27, 2014 at 8:44 pm
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    Maybe if HTFP was renamed HTF&HP the haters could start loving and not hating everything that the new and progressive blood are trying to achieve. Rewinding the clock to 2000 and hoping the classified market didn’t go where it did is not an option, so grow up and waste your time thinking about where our new USP’s might reside in this digital age.

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  • November 28, 2014 at 7:56 am
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    I am not a JP person but surely some of these talented young people can get some other work or branch out. I would not wait for the sword of Damocles to fall!

    I used to buy papers to look at the editorial. Now they are just huge
    clumps of adverts banded by bits of local news. Awful

    Johnston;s papers are grim. The photos are bad, bad, bad

    The world is out there, particularly for the young. Go, some of you before you are pushed.

    JP has never changed in the twenty years I have known them.

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  • November 28, 2014 at 9:26 am
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    Merry Christmas! Now everyone working in those centres have to endure a time of agony and anxiety, not knowing who the axe is going to fall upon. Most likely they’ll be forced to suffer the humiliation and degradation of competing against their co-workers for their own job (as I was before I took VR, and I’d not wish that stress upon my worst enemy)

    Timed as it was, and so cruelly disassociated from any kind of human interaction, this sickening move clearly demonstrates the detached, calculating accountancy mindset that rules JP’s top management. Hard-working journalists and editors with years-worth of experienced are reduced to mere ‘cost units’, numbers upon a spreadsheet to be streamlined, reduced, balanced oout of the equation with aboslutely zero consideration for the impact of the titles they work upon, and the communities they serve – reduced to ‘products’, filled with ‘content’.

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  • November 28, 2014 at 9:35 am
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    Why do you call him Ashley all through your report? He’s not known to us personally.

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  • November 28, 2014 at 10:09 am
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    With very occasional exceptions – court cases for instance – it is and always has been HTFP house style to refer to people within the industry by their first names.

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  • December 1, 2014 at 10:26 am
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    To show how much quality has declined, the local JP title (Dewsbury Reporter) online version still carries a strap under the banner ” Tour De France”. Basic housekeeping bearing in mind we are 5 months after the event. As Danny Lockwood has commented on this thread, he produces a cracking little paper that is well respected in this area and street ahead of the JP product

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  • December 1, 2014 at 4:28 pm
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    I just wonder at what point JP decide they have shed enough staff. In West Sussex they will have, for example, decided to run with only three staff photographers and minimal reporters. Is there scope for more cuts?

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  • December 2, 2014 at 11:16 am
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    It is not simply the number of professional staff that it is losing, but the calibre of staff JP is recruiting that is equally shocking. My attention was drawn to a media sales agent that claims she works for ‘Johnsons Press': previously she worked in fiance dealing with ‘bankrupsy’ claims. JP will be happy when they can get away with (or think they can) producing products with as few staff as possible, never mind the quality, so long as new advertisers (who have nothing to compare their poor designs with) generate income.

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  • December 2, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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    Haven’t been on here for a while. Get out while you can. Trust me, there is life outside of JP. And as for Highfields comment about offering the best level of support to those who face redundancy, what waffle. Been there and don’t want to do that again. Such a shame that so many talented, passionate staff are being treated so appallingly by a CEO who, I’m convinced isn’t human.

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  • December 4, 2014 at 11:05 am
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    Get out while you still can.

    Myself and colleagues are absolutely devastated to have lost our jobs so close to Christmas, but my god it was somewhat of a blessing in disguise.

    The satisfaction level at JP is at an all time low, people are unhappy, overworked and being pushed into changes that are really are NOT wanted.

    We’ve all heard whispers from people piloting the newsroom of the future that they’ve absolutely hated it, staff are spread to thinly and people are being pushed out of their papers and into departments they do not want to be in and so on…

    The feedback they apparently gave to the top dogs was highly negative e and then we all hear in AH’s video that the pilot was a complete success, rubbish!

    I’ve never worked for a company that is so shambolic.

    Merry Christmas.

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