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Newsquest job cuts announced in Carlisle & Kendal

6 November 2019

Newsquest has announced a new wave of cuts in Cumbria. There are three feature writers roles at risk of redundancy in Carlisle. The role at risk of redundancy in Kendal is the arts and leisure writer for the Westmorland Gazette. Those affected by the risk of redundancy were told individually and the rest of the staff got to hear about the cuts from a note pinned to the office noticeboard. The newspapers impacted by the cuts will include the Cumberland News, Carlisle News and Star, and the Westmorland Gazette.

Local newsrooms have already suffered catastrophic cuts.

In Carlisle all of the sub-editors, four out of our five photographers, and the majority of the experienced reporting staff have left because of previous rounds of cuts.

There has been a separate announcement about cuts to the portfolio of premium magazine titles including Cumbria Life, Dumfries and Galloway Life, Carlisle Living and a business magazine. These new redundancies are separate and will impact on the magazines operation where the six employees have all been put at risk of redundancy. This was announced on Friday 1 November and staff have been told that just two jobs will remain. These cuts will mean that most of the production work on the Cumbria magazines will now take place in Newport, Gwent.

The NUJ is urging the company to reconsider its proposal and commit to investing in sustainable local journalism and jobs.

Following a NUJ members meeting yesterday, the local NUJ chapel in Carlisle have said:

Newsquest Cumbria is currently consulting on a proposal to make four of our feature writers redundant, replacing them with a reporter working across the group on features and entertainment content. Three of those involved work in our Carlisle newsroom, working for The Cumberland News and the News and Star, as well as our website.

All are talented, highly experienced regional journalists, with more than 60 years of experience in their profession between them. They are trusted by many influential local people, and all have a profound knowledge of their community. One is currently nominated for his feature writing in this year's O2 North West Media Awards.

Our titles in Carlisle - The Cumberland News, and News and Star have already suffered catastrophic cuts. We have lost all our sub-editors, four out of our five photographers, and most of our experienced reporting staff. The company is also currently consulting on a proposal to axe four jobs from our magazines section in Dalston Road. This NUJ chapel wishes to put on record our view that these further attacks on our journalistic capacity are cuts too far.

Should the redundancies go ahead, they will leave our Carlisle newsroom with just two senior journalists in full-time writing roles on the news side of the business. This will will damage our reputation in the community and therefore our business. It will severely limit our ability to provide quality journalism, leaving our titles largely dependent on junior staff and non-journalist contributors, who provide free content, some of it commercially driven.

We know there is an appetite for impartial, well-written, quality local journalism, but this can not be delivered effectively by a newsroom where mostly junior staff are employed. That would be unfair to those younger staff, and unfair for our readers. We would like an answer to this simple question: 'How will discarding three of our most talented, experienced journalists help our business to thrive and prosper?'

We urge Newsquest - which in May reported a pre-tax profit of £108m - to invest in journalism. We understand that free, user-generated content is a valuable addition to our titles. But it should not replace journalism.  Readers are less likely to pay for a product which lacks the depth and quality senior journalists provide. Our Carlisle chapel feels more could be done to exploit the digital potential of our features content. Should Newsquest press ahead with these cuts, our reputation will be so damaged it may prove impossible to attract young journalists to our business. Indeed, our staff now arrive daily at work with a hugely unsettling question at the forefront of their mind: who will be next?

This is no way to run a business.

So for the sake of our readers, our customers, our business, and our journalism, we urge Newsquest to reconsider. If this business is to thrive in the future, it must pursue profit through investing in journalism, not through constantly cutting costs by weeding out experienced staff, who are respected and trusted in the community we serve.

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

"The loss of journalists’ jobs at CN Group since Newsquest took over just 19 months ago has been staggering and undermined the claim at the time that the deal would enable the business to carry on 'providing first class content'. 

"What has been evident is that years of journalistic experience and know-how has been stripped out of newsrooms for the inconvenient reason that it is deemed too expensive to employ in news gathering.

"These latest cuts highlight this one-way traffic by putting the jobs of trusted and seasoned journalists under the axe. Newsrooms are increasingly losing their key advantage - local knowledge and insight.

"My question would be how does this help build a sustainable business as Newsquest promised that it would when it gobbled up this family business last year?"

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