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Newsquest's disastrous production policy ends with closure of Weymouth subbing hub

10 May 2017

After closing its subbing hub in Newport, Newsquest is stopping production in Weymouth ending what the NUJ has called a monumentally-mistaken policy.

In a letter to staff, Carl Blackmore, regional production manager, said 17 full time equivalent staff have been put at risk of redundancy, including copy-editors and regional co-ordinator roles. He said editing work will cease at the end of June.

The final 14 journalists working in Newport were told they were being made redundant in March. The centre had employed 70 people.

Staff on the local and regional publisher's titles are now be expected to work to a "write to shape" system, writing copy and headlines into a template. The union described Newsquest's policy of sacking experienced subbing staff on local titles as a huge mistake. The Newsquest group chapel said the "write to shape" system will remove from the process the checking of quality, readability and accuracy.

Chris Morley, Newsquest coordinator, said:

“By first setting up the subbing hubs and then trashing them after just a couple of years, with all the trauma and disruption to the lives of many journalists involved, Newsquest has proved itself ruthless and incompetent. Without proper quality control, where will that leave the reputation of the group’s titles as the chief executive exhorts his staff to pile up stories and photographs from its readers, with cash prizes for the titles with the most free content?

“Scores of talented and seasoned local journalists had their jobs in the communities they were proud to serve ripped from them on the lowest possible legal terms and the work transferred to faceless news factories at Newport and Weymouth. Recruited journalists  at the hubs did their utmost to make the best of a bad situation.
"But Newsquest has cast them all aside – all at the meanest possible terms despite the chief executive luxuriating in a £1 million-plus pay package. We call on the company to concede that its management made a monumental mistake in creating these hubs in the first place and have the guts to apologise to all those who have been so badly treated throughout this sorry and shameful episode in UK journalism.”

The Newsquest NUJ group chapel made the following statement:

"The substance of the announcement was inevitable from the moment Newsquest unveiled its strategy to centralise subbing operations and rob its newspapers of experienced and hard-working sub-editors who knew their towns and regions as intimately as their readers did. Having scythed the number of content managers locally, Newsquest will have achieved its ultimate goal if it closes not one but two subbing hubs which were created to absorb the subsequent workload.

“Few Newsquest editorial staff outside of Newport and Weymouth had faith in the strategy of centralised subbing. The proposed closure of the latter operation will only benefit the company's balance sheet while yet more journalists face an uncertain future. Concepts such as quality, readability and fact-checking are a nuisance to Newsquest directors who expect remaining staff to possess an endless capacity for tasks above and beyond those for which they were employed."

If you are a journalist from the Weymouth hub at risk of redundancy, email publishing@nuj.org.uk

Tags: , newsquest, local news matters, local newspapers, weymouth, subbing hub, redundancies, close, newport, subbing, Carl Blackmore