Journalists knocked sideways by more Newsquest cuts
12 September 2018
The NUJ’s Swindon chapel has reacted to the announcement about further job cuts in both Wiltshire and Oxford. In Wiltshire, Newsquest wants to axe two members of the features department and the sports editor. In Oxford Newsquest plans to cut one staff member from features and another from sport and axe the assistant editor, to be replaced by a new audience and content editor. The company wants the changes to take effect by Friday 28 September.
The Swindon Advertiser NUJ chapel said:
"The newsroom at the Swindon Advertiser was knocked sideways by the announcement on Friday that it is set to lose two members of its features department and the sports editor. The proposed cuts are being made to an editorial department that is already slashed to the bone following the loss of three subs, a news editor and the web editor to redundancy just before Christmas last year. Since then the newsroom has lost the assistant news editor and the deputy editor to more lucrative and probably less stressful employment in PR.
"It was the four members of the features department who were asked to step up and share a large amount of the work previously done by the deputy editor on top of their existing jobs. We are at a loss to know how we are going to cope. It is clear the people behind the decision have no idea just how much the staff in features contribute to the paper. It is also clear the decision-makers are not interested. Rather than pinpointing individual roles they have focused on numbers. Our sports editor is responsible not just for the Advertiser, but also for the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald and Wiltshire Times sports pages.
"The affected staff, who were described as ‘resources’ in their consultation letters, now face having to justify their existence in interviews. It is a horrific situation. They are being asked to fight among themselves for their survival. To add insult to injury, a matter of a few hours after the shock announcement, an email was circulated around Newsquest from editorial development director Toby Granville advertising the vacancy at the paper for the early shift Audience and Content Editor. It was also just four days after the editor sent round an email congratulating us on being the second best performing title in Newsquest when the ABC figures were released. He, rightly, considered it ‘a great achievement, especially considering the staffing issues we have faced.’
"Colleagues on the news side are extremely concerned at the loss of decades of experience and local knowledge. Almost all the reporters are young trainees and only one grew up in the town. We also feel this is extremely disrespectful to loyal readers. People still buy the paper for stories about local people. The Rewind nostalgia feature is also hugely popular and the town is hugely proud of its heritage, of which the Adver is an integral part. The fear is this local content will be replaced by generic features that will interest almost nobody. Years of constant staff cuts have already left their mark on the Advertiser and hurt the brand. Further cuts will only inflict more damage."
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"The summer holidays are barely over before Newsquest's butchery of its newsrooms has started up again. They are beyond even a pretence that this is in anyone's interests but their own bottom line; describing their own journalists as 'resources' and 'content generators'. There is not a shred of respect given to staff who are working in incredibly difficult circumstances, with high turnover and under extreme pressure, or to readers of their titles who are simply treated as cash cows. Corporate Newsquest just doesn't care. As the Cairncross review into sustainable journalism considers its recommendations this is what we're up against."