MPs rally behind Reach journalists
NUJ parliamentary briefing garners support from MPs concerned about the publisher’s latest round of job cuts and its impact on journalism.
On 12 December, NUJ reps and officials met with cross-party MPs in Westminster to update on the third round of redundancies announced by Reach this year.
MPs and Lord Woodley heard from journalists about the impact of job losses including low morale and poor mental health within teams, as members worried about job insecurity.
“It’s scary and has led to some people leaving as they can’t face it year on year.” one rep said. Chris Morley and Laura Davison, NUJ national organisers, emphasised the latest round of redundancies followed several others, compounding the impact on journalists’ workloads, when considering jobs deleted and vacancies left unfilled.
MPs were updated on the inevitable hollowing out of titles if Reach continues with its dogged approach as part of CEO Jim Mullen’s Digital First strategy. Reps highlighted that as more content is shared across titles, audiences are less able to obtain relevant news that hasn’t already been published elsewhere. Worry over increases in newspaper prices and the value for readers if cuts lead to a decline in the quality of journalism produced was also raised at the NUJ’s event.
Journalists shared their concern over the company’s drive to increase page views linked to the use of clickbait articles. Inevitably, this had impacted journalists keen to pursue public interest journalism of real interest to audiences.
Across titles, the NUJ has heard from members about the reduction in time available to meet contacts in-person.
One rep said:
“There’s been an impact on local communities as whereas in the past there was more provision to go out and cover events or do long-planning stories or investigations which require off-diary time and/or lots of legwork, these do not happen. Reporters don’t have time to make contacts in the community. Community events, public meetings about antisocial behaviour, health promotion events, county shows are all things we have not been able to cover as we might have previously.”
Reps stressed that journalists were able to hold the powerful to account through their reporting, but this would become increasingly difficult with fewer jobs. Ian Byrne MP highlighted the negative impact this would have on democracy, with an increase in wrongdoers acting with impunity.
Grahame Morris MP, NUJ parliamentary group co-chair, expressed concern at the impact of cuts in his constituency and more widely across journalism. Alongside several others attending, John McDonnell MP, secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group committed his ongoing support to the NUJ’s efforts to compel Reach to recognise the value of journalists at the company.
Kim Johnson MP, queried whether an Equalities Impact Assessment had been undertaken by Reach, stressing its need. She agreed to continue engagement with the union’s campaigning including through her seat on the women and equalities select committee.
Impact of cuts
At some titles, proposals will mean a significant reduction in sports writers and the NUJ recognises action to cull these posts will be felt widely by remaining reporters and across Reach readership. At a time of growing interest in women’s football, MPs heard about how fewer sports reporters would lead to a decline in coverage. Photographers also face the wrath of the latest cuts, with many titles losing roles leading to only one photographer covering a large geographical area, in one instance.
The NUJ has repeatedly expressed its concern about job losses and the ability of journalists to report on news that plays an important role in informing communities and encouraging their engagement with democratic processes. “The latest round of redundancies will mean the ability to carry out public interest journalism is massively diminished.” said Morley.
Journalists voiced the need for a long-term strategy that ensures the success of the business whilst centring quality journalism. Echoing concerns raised previously by the NUJ Reach group chapel, reps emphasised the contrast in shareholder payouts and chief executive pay with journalists’ salaries.
MPs resolved to act, calling on Reach to recognise the immense value of journalists at the company, and their role in the sustainability of journalism. The NUJ can provide a briefing
Thank you to all MPs who attended, the NUJ is able to share a briefing on concerns. MPs can sign Early Day Motion 65: Redundancies at Reach plc and sustainability of the press, and Early Day Motion 30: Jobs at News Publisher Reach.