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NUJ reacts to Newsquest’s cull of four out of five photographers in Cumbria

27 June 2018

The Carlisle NUJ chapel believes the future of quality local journalism - so long the bedrock of Cumbrian Newspapers (CN) - is at risk as a result of restructuring to eliminate 80 per cent of staff photographer roles.
The cut from five photographers to just one at the Carlisle centre will come into effect from next week, affected staff are being made redundant on Friday 29 June.

The local NUJ chapel said: "This is a cut too far."

The latest job losses bring the toll to nearly 100 cut since Newsquest formally took over CN Group just three months ago. The presses at Carlisle were shut in the spring with 34 jobs lost as printing moved to Glasgow, and a trawl for voluntary redundancies resulted in 40 more employees leaving.

From a total staff of more than 300 before the takeover, it is estimated the number of posts left at CN will be below 200 – in a geographical region where jobs are already sparse.

Staff have also received no pay rise in nine of the past 12 years - their last pay rise was in 2015.

The NUJ chapel added:

"When Newsquest bought the company, NUJ members knew and accepted changes lay ahead. Every company wants a sustainable future, and we, of course, support this. We appreciate that Newsquest, and our industry, faces unprecedented change and challenge as we adapt to the rapidly evolving digital age.

"Despite these difficulties, our newspapers and magazines have punched above their weight and been a beacon of quality local journalism. This has been underlined by numerous national and regional accolades that our titles and our staff have won in recent years – against rivals in bigger cities with more resources. We are proud of this culture of journalistic excellence.

"To Newsquest's credit, we understand there are plans to recruit reporters in Carlisle, bolstering a team that has been drastically reduced over recent years - to around a quarter of the number CN had in Carlisle a decade ago.

"But we believe massively reducing the number of staff photographers to cover an area the size of north Cumbria will ultimately harm the business, when we all want it to succeed. Our NUJ chapel is increasingly concerned for the future of quality journalism that has long been the bedrock of Cumbrian Newspapers (CN).

"By the end of this week, Newsquest will cut the number of photographers working out of our Carlisle office by 80 per cent. In addition, there will only be one each in west Cumbria, Barrow, and Hexham. Members feel the loss of four experienced photographers in Carlisle will be a major blow to our hard-won reputation for quality.

"Illogically, Newsquest appears to regard all CN's Cumbrian centres as identical. So Barrow, with one daily newspaper, will have the same level of photographic cover as Carlisle, which publishes a daily newspaper, a weekly, and a series of magazines. The work of our photographers will instead be replaced by pictures from freelances, reporters using smart phones, readers, and PR/commercial companies. Such content is no substitute for first-class photography by trained and seasoned staff professionals.
"Clearly, Newsquest wants the business to thrive. The Carlisle NUJ chapel believes the best way to achieve this is to invest in journalism - professionally trained reporters and photographers - not move to a cut-priced, casualised system of freelances and donated content. We feel that failing to properly invest in our journalism will not allow Cumbrian Newspapers to achieve the sustainable future we all crave.

"The NUJ chapel has therefore demanded further talks with management to seek a more positive way forward for all."

Chris Morley, NUJ northern and midlands senior organiser, said:

"Our members at CN Group have been long suffering in terms of falling pay in real terms and an attrition of jobs over a number of years.

"But what shines out has been a dogged and determined commitment to quality local journalism that has kept the company going in the harshest of conditions – and they should be congratulated on this great achievement.

"Instead, new corporate master Newsquest has axed staff throughout the business and is about to now scythe through newsroom photographic capacity in a move that undermines this hard-won reputation for journalistic excellence.

"NUJ members want the company to get round the table and talk about how a more positive way forward can be found that does not risk further damage to the business and even more job losses."

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