Newsquest has announced the switch after some editors claimed to be changing “80pc or more” of the headlines written at the hubs.
The change in policy will see headlines, subheads and straplines written in local offices, rather than by production journalists working at the hubs in Newport and Weymouth.
At present, headlines are added by subs working at the hubs after pages are sent to them from Newsquest titles across the country. Copy editing will still take place from the hubs following the change, which was due to come into effect today.
Since 2014, Newsquest has transferred much of its production operation to the two hubs, with sub-editing jobs being lost at regional centres across the country as a result.
The switch was announced in an email sent to Newsquest’s regional editors and managing directors by group production director Leighton Jones shortly before Christmas.
In the email, which has been seen by HTFP, Leighton said: “In order to create a more efficient workflow and address the concerns of some of you that you change 80pc or more of the headlines that are supplied, it has been decided that headlines, subheads and straplines on stories will no longer be written in the copy-editing hubs.
“The hubs will still continue to copy-edit the rest of the content and you will see a new status of ‘Headline Req’.
“You will be able to run a query on this status and from there, open the story to add these elements. It is intended that the copy editing will be carried out first and the story will have these elements added when sent back to the region on the status of ‘Headline Req’.
“Please be aware that it is the responsibility of the local centre to complete the story when the elements are written.”
Newsquest has not responded to requests for further comment.
However the National Union of Journalists said the email amounted to an admission that subbing hubs had “failed.”
Chris Morley, NUJ Newsquest group coordinator, said: “The NUJ warned loudly and clearly that producing local papers hundreds of miles away would hit quality. We warned that the staff, often inexperienced, being recruited to the hubs, especially at Newport, were placed in an impossible position by the company with lack of training and support and having to contend with vast numbers of titles.
“The results were all too unfortunate to behold and now it seems the shrinking band of remaining editors have at last accepted that the NUJ warnings were valid all along and lack of quality is undermining their titles with the reading public.
“It makes a mockery of course of the recent Investors in People award given at Newport. It is now really vital that this added workload which will be passing back to local centres must be recognised by Newsquest through the recruitment of additional staff to ease the burden on its over-pressed journalists around the UK.
“Great damage has been done with the faith placed in a failing hub experiment by senior managers but it is not too late for Newsquest to give its local teams the resources they need to produce quality journalism that the public will be attracted to.”