Regional publisher Newsquest has strongly denied claims it is seeking to replace a newsdesk role at a regional daily that was declared redundant last autumn.
Members of the National Union of Journalists chapel at the paper say the roles are similar to a news editor post made redundant at the Advertiser following cutbacks announced in November.
However Newsquest editorial director Toby Granville has accused the union of talking “nonsense” and claimed both of the new roles have arisen as a result of recent resignations at the paper.
According to the the union, Toby sent out a staff-wide email advertising for the two new roles following the resignation of the Advertiser’s one remaining member of newsdesk staff that same morning.
The NUJ, which staged a two-day strike at the Advertiser in January in a dispute over pay and working conditions, has also claimed that reporters were told in December that the title no longer required a news editor.
A spokesman for the NUJ Swindon chapel said: “Members were understandably confused and angry by the job advert and requested a meeting with the newly-appointed editor/head of content that day to discuss the vacancies.
“Unfortunately, no light was shed on how this role was any different to the former role of news editor, other than that the positions would be more digitally focussed.
“This came as a surprise, as the newspaper’s website and its social media channels form a significant part of the newsdesk’s responsibilities. Staff were then told that the roles would be split so that one ACE would work the early and the other the late shift, sparking further confusion as that was exactly the set-up that was operating up until 29 December under the news editor and assistant news editor.
“The chapel questions the soundness of a plan by Newsquest whereby experienced and valued members of staff are replaced with less-experienced colleagues on significantly less money in new roles that mimic the former positions, and fears deeply for the future of the title and the industry as a whole.”
Said Toby: “This is more nonsense being stirred up by NUJ head office. These two new audience and content editor roles are to fill the vacancies created by recent resignations from the company.
“They are not replacing any of the roles made redundant – and at the time, we were of course unaware of these resignations.
“These two new exciting ACEs roles have been introduced already at several of our titles and really encapsulate the skills required in the modern multimedia newsroom.
“We are happy to welcome applications from past and present staff and while we are sorry to see employees leave the business – we look forward to building an exciting new team around the new editor Pete Gavan.”
A Newsquest spokesperson added: “The NUJ claims are nonsense. There are other people in the Swindon management team besides the assistant news editor.
“One of them – despite being offered the newly-created audience & content editor role – has told us they are leaving. Therefore we are looking for two audience & content editors to work directly for the new editor.
“These are two brand new management roles which require a completely different skillset to the traditional news desk role – and once they are appointed the headcount at Swindon would not have changed as a consequence.”