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More than 400 journalists put at risk as publisher reveals fresh cuts

Lloyd Embley 1A regional publisher has announced fresh cuts that it is understood will put more than 400 journalists at risk of redundancy.

Reach plc has this morning confirmed “significant changes” to its editorial operations that will lead to fresh redundancies.

According to the National Union of Journalists, 420 roles will be put at risk in total with the goal of 192 editorial roles being cut from the workforce.

The proposals come only two weeks after the conclusion of a redundancy process announced in January this year that the union says resulted in the loss of more than 80 jobs.

Last Tuesday, Reach also revealed plans to reduce its operating costs by up to £29m after warning in its annual results that it is facing a “tough” 2023.

In a joint message to staff this morning, which has been seen by HTFP, group editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley, pictured, and chief digital publisher David Higgerson said the group had “prioritised alternatives to redundancies including closing vacancies and non-labour costs” but that it was “expecting to need to make a number of redundancies as we implement these changes”.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “Plans will come as a major blow to our members hard on the heels of recent redundancies.

“As the company seeks to make good on its commitment to cut costs by £30 million this year it is our members who are yet again feeling the pain.

“Our objective in this process will be to support our members who have been buffeted every which way by the business since the new year.

“They have had enough of words and will be looking for tangible ways the company can mitigate the impacts of this announcement.

“Reach’s focus has switched to launching a US operation, but it remains to be seen what this will deliver in reality and in the meantime more core jobs are being lost.

“While the cost-of-living crisis is impacting everyone, including Reach staff, it is the leadership that decides the strategy.

“We are a far, far cry from the period when Reach was investing in new local sites and expanding its footprint across the country, claiming to have created a sustainable model for digital-only local journalism.”

A Reach spokesperson said: “As we announced in January, with the current market headwinds we are facing we have had to take decisive action to review costs across the entire business including print production, energy sourcing, external suppliers, as well as, regrettably, the size of some of our teams.

“This work is ongoing as we review all aspects of our strategic transformation, to ensure we continue to deliver on our Customer Value Strategy and are well placed to benefit once headwinds subside.

“We will continue to work closely with all impacted teams and continue to be committed to delivering a sustainable business and a long-term future for our journalism.”

“We continue to be wholly committed to delivering trusted and award-winning local journalism across our portfolio – from our city titles, which set the national agenda, to our specialised hyperlocal titles, which boast fiercely loyal audiences.

“While we take these decisions and the impact on our people very seriously, the current macroeconomic conditions mean that we must continue to rethink how our range of local titles can best serve their communities, to ensure their success now and far into the future.”

The announcement can be read in full below.

To our Editorial colleagues,

As you will have heard in Reach’s 2022 full-year results announcement last week, and in our conversations and communications with you prior to that, the combination of unprecedented cost inflation, a challenged consumer economy and an industry-wide decline in open-market advertising yields means we’re having to continue to review and adapt the way we work.

In reality that means our senior team has to make tough decisions that have an impact right across the business.

In Editorial, our goal of establishing a secure, sustainable and ultimately growing business remains at the heart of our strategy. We’re hugely proud of what our teams are achieving. We’re committed to and confident in our plan to make Reach a place where quality journalism; local, national and international, can thrive and be read by as many people as possible.

But we simply cannot afford to ignore the headwinds that are buffeting the whole industry. We must be realistic about the fact that working through them and staying on track to achieve our goals means taking some decisive action and difficult decisions along the way.

Today we’re going to be outlining some proposals that mean significant changes across our Editorial operations. We’ve explored every option and prioritised alternatives to redundancies including closing vacancies and non-labour costs, but we’re expecting to need to make a number of redundancies as we implement these changes.

We believe that the proposals we’ll outline today are, under the difficult circumstances, the right ones to set us up for the future. But we both fully accept and take responsibility for the fact that this will not make the news any easier to hear for colleagues who may be put at risk of redundancy, and for all of our teams who naturally find this change very unsettling.

We must be honest about the fact that, as a result of the measures we need to take, we will be saying goodbye to talented colleagues and friends who have played a massive role in making Reach the largest commercial publisher in the UK and Ireland.

If your role is impacted by these proposals, we will do our best to make sure that you’re briefed at the earliest opportunity. We’ll prioritise briefing colleagues who are impacted today, and in the days ahead your local leader will update you on what the changes mean for your area. We’ll also bring forward our Q2 town hall programme, with opportunities for people to see us face-to-face should you wish to.

In those sessions we will talk through the changes and how we plan to work through the economic challenges we’re facing and address the online attention recession we’re suffering from, to return our digital audience to growth, and also ensure that we have realistic expectations of the audiences our different teams can reach on a regular basis.

Nevertheless we know that this isn’t an easy email to read, and as ever, we are both committed to ensuring you receive the best possible support during this difficult time.

Thank you

David and Lloyd

David Higgerson (Chief Digital Publisher)
Lloyd Embley (Group Editor-in-Chief)