NUJ quizzes board at Reach AGM

  • 02 May 2024

The year of unprecedented job cuts, development of AI and the “strains and stress” for Reach journalists of trying to produce quality journalism were the members’ top issues.

NUJ officials and reps handed out a letter to shareholders joining the publisher’s annual general meeting, before joining the meeting to question the Reach board.

The letter said:

This year was ushered in with the conclusion of the biggest set of job losses among journalists in Reach plc’s history - following 2023’s brutal retreat which saw many hundreds of journalists handed their p45s in three mass job culls.

After so much turbulence, our members desperately need stability - and a belief that there is a platform for growth. We hope you will agree that no business can cut its way to success.

The strains and stress for Reach journalists of trying to produce quality journalism with so many fewer colleagues are seriously challenging. Some of our members report being close to burn out and frankly worked to the bone.

This cannot go on indefinitely and the board must convince not only you as shareholders that they have a winning strategy – but our members, who have shown in no uncertain terms that they remain to be convinced, too.

The NUJ welcomed the mature approach senior management showed in this year’s pay round, but this should only be a downpayment on restoring the confidence of staff.

We look forward to seeing you again inside today’s AGM where we want to make you aware of some of the other key concerns we still have for the company.

Aside from freedom from the spectre of big job cuts, our members want strong assurances that the drive for digital page views - with the creation of a big new “Content Hub” - will not hasten the end of scores of proud, historic local titles (and associated news websites) that have stood up for their communities for many decades, if not centuries.

And are there sufficient safeguards in the use of AI so that the value of having human journalists is always recognised and integral in the editorial process? We think you as shareholders will want to know how the company intends to avoid systemic reputational damage in the dash for clicks and the fight against fakery.

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