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Eleven jobs to go at South London weeklies, claims NUJ

Eleven editorial roles are set to be cut at a group of London weeklies with the National Union of Journalists claiming all but two of its 29-strong newsroom are now on notice of redundancy.

According to the NUJ, regional publisher Newsquest wants to axe a series of roles in its South London newsroom which produces ten newspapers and eight companion websites across the area.

The union says the company has told staff that it plans to cut four reporters, three sub-editors, two content editors, an editorial assistant and a deputy managing editor by mid-October.

The remaining 18-strong newsroom would comprise a managing editor, web editor, 12 reporters and four content editors, responsible for covering features, sport and leisure across the patch as well as news.

Titles that would be affected by the proposals include the Guardian series in Croydon, Epsom, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon, the News Shopper series covering Bexley, Bromley, Dartford, Gravesend, and Greenwich, the Richmond & Twickenham Times and Surrey Comet.

A Newsquest spokesman told HTFP: “We are undertaking this restructuring of the free newspaper portfolio in south London in order to put the business on a more sustainable footing. Regrettably, this proposal puts a number of roles at risk of redundancy.”

Prior to the latest announcement, Newsquest’s staff had already been balloting for industrial action over staffing levels and related issues, saying that eight members of staff who have left since April have not been replaced.

Earlier this week HTFP also reported that the South London titles would no longer have professional photography coverage after Newsquest ended a decade-long agreement with the Deadlinepix agency.

Newsquest South London staff during their 11-day strike in July 2015

Newsquest South London staff during their 11-day strike in July 2015

An NUJ chapel spokesperson said: “These new proposals will not only destroy our already struggling news room and ruin the brands we have worked hard to build up, but they are quite simply unworkable.

“Senior management refuse to meet the union or acknowledge our attempts to meet with them. Running a business in this way would be farcical if it wasn’t so tragic. We would like to repeat our invitation to managing director Tony Portelli to sit down and speak to his employees.”

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, added: “These plans are designed to tear the heart out of the local newsroom yet somehow Newsquest expects the staff to carry on as if nothing has happened, producing content for exactly the same number of titles and websites.”

According to the union, the company cited “difficult trading conditions with sustained pressure on the profitability of the group” in making the announcement.

A group of national newspaper journalists has also pledged to set up a hardship fund for the Newsquest South London staff should they decide to go on strike.

The NUJ chapel at the Financial Times passed a motion saying it “fully supports” NUJ members balloting for strike action.

“By allowing local news titles in South London to be produced by skeleton staff teams and work experience students, managers are showing their contempt for both journalists and journalism,” it said.

“We call on Newsquest to resume talks with the NUJ and end the dangerously low staffing levels imposed over the past year. We agree to organise collections for a hardship fund should members at Newsquest take strike action.”

8 comments

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  • September 8, 2016 at 9:41 am
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    Can’t imagine how anyone could afford to be on a reporter’s wage in London. Do all the people in that picture live in the same flat?

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  • September 8, 2016 at 10:09 am
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    I was stunned when i heard this early this morning when a colleague pointed it out,especially considering strike action was planned there arounbd unfair conditions and working hours
    This latest slash and burn really signals the end of quality for the regionals for believe me,if this goes through on the back of the photographers being axed at NQ and other once big regional players,the floodgates will open and others will follow suit

    Making do with the thinest of skeleton staffs working under intense pressure doing the work of colleagues who are deemed surplus to requirements all under the banner of cost saving measures and efficiencies is not a long term strategy for companies or individuals.

    My advice to any poor soul still grinding away in the regionals is to have your exit plans in place pdq,youre going to need them if this is the way companies are planning their futures

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  • September 8, 2016 at 10:18 am
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    Terrible news for those concerned – but the more these established titles are cut back, the bigger a gap it creates in the market for an enterprising start-up. I’m not suggesting it’s within the grasp of a poorly-paid trainee to do so, but someone with deeper pockets is bound to take the initiative eventually. A couple of independents have sprung up in my neck of the wood following TM / NQ cuts and they seem to be going from strength to strength. They certainly run rings around their rivals for depth and relevance of coverage. Nonetheless, my sympathies to anyone caught up in this mess. It must be awful to finally land a coveted journo job, only to find it’s not much fun and you’re at risk of losing it.

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  • September 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm
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    Makes you wonder whatever the future holds for some of these papers, companies and individuals with the cloth spread so thin and with the poor souls who remain living on a knife edge and loving life at near breaking point.

    This latest bombshell surely heralds the end of traditional local newspaper titles in this country with others sure to follow suit, if redundancies are announced in already stretched newsrooms and on the back of no investment in the papers/ products themselves the tipping point must have already been reached,
    Shocking news and yes,an ideal time to climb aboard the strong local independents thriving out there in territories once owned by the crumbling bigger groups,so take the money and run no matter which of the big players you’re working for and don’t look back as in a very short time from now there’ll be nothing to look back upon other than the crumbling remains of a once thriving industry put to the sword by short term Poorly thought out decisions,failure to invest and move forward and sheer greed

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  • September 8, 2016 at 4:58 pm
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    Very sorry to hear about yet more job losses at NQ.

    However, there is life after NQ and newspapers.

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  • September 8, 2016 at 6:45 pm
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    Firstly you have to have sympathy for all the dedicated employees up and down the country who are under consultation.

    On my commute home I’ve been trying to think of any successful weekly newspapers that operate in metropolitan / conurbational areas – do they exist? Can anyone out there please point me in the right direction?

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  • September 9, 2016 at 11:44 am
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    Job cuts have become a way of life in regional journalism over the past 10 year, but what is now more alarming is the slashing of roles such as content editors. Weren’t these supposed to be part of the brave new world in the industry?

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