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Stress time-bomb ticking at Johnston Press

13 November 2012

Journalists at Johnston Press are demanding urgent talks with Johnston Press since the company announced that it is to make cuts of £30million, a £5m increase on its previous estimate.

The NUJ has warned that increased workload and stress levels are endangering staff and the publications they produce.

In its interim management statement, for the 18 weeks to 3 November 2012, the company blamed a 16 per cent slump in advertising revenue.

Group chief executive Ashley Highfield said that the company's restructuring had cost £13.8m – it is in the process of re-launching the majority of its 260 titles and has moved a number of daily titles to weeklies. He said the re-launches have so far slowed down the decrease in circulation revenues.

Johnston Press said monthly website visitors for October showed a 25.2 per cent year on year increase to 9.8m and its debt burden had fallen from £351.7m to £336m this year.

Barry Fitzpatrick, NUJ deputy general secretary, said:

"The NUJ remains apprehensive about the fast pace of change at Johnston Press. We have expressed our concerns at the shareholders' meeting and our reps have tried to make their views known within the company.

"The latest figures clearly show that the switch to digital has not seen revenues match those of print prior to the re-launch. It is also not clear whether making the daily titles weeklies has been a success.
"The major concerns for us are the levels of workload and stress among the staff during this period of change; it is a ticking time-bomb. We urge the company to engage actively with the NUJ to address these problems and to build upon the willingness of our members to make the transition work."

The NUJ wants to discuss:

  • The impact of redundancies on the whole staff.
  • The problems caused by the centralisation of the subbing operation.
  • The stress levels among staff
  • The ambition of Johnston Press to have half of its content written by readers.

Barry Fitzpatrick said: "Current events clearly demonstrate that the future of the media is dependent on the quality of journalistic content and adequate resources to fund it."

In a statement with the new figures, Ashley Highfield said:

"We have moved forward with the re-launch of our titles with encouraging early signs, and our digital business has seen a huge increase in audience this year, as well as the launch of services across iPad, mobile and PC, which will provide a spring-board to future digital revenue growth. As a result, the business is moving onto a more stable footing as we go into 2013 when the full benefits of the changes will be seen."

Johnston Press publishes 13 daily newspapers, more than 230 weeklies and a number of glossy monthly lifestyle magazines. Its website says: "The group has 223 local websites with complementary mobile sites and we have iPad apps for The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post, the Scarborough News, Halifax Courier, Northants Telegraph, Peterborough Telegraph and Northampton Chronicle & Echo with more to follow."

Tags: newspapers, new media, johnston press, stress, cuts