The local freepaper, the Croydon Guardian, looks set to lose its hard-working and well-respected sports editor, Graham Moody, among 12 journalists facing the axe under the latest cost-cutting plans of owners Newsquest at their south London group.
Based at offices in Sutton (the Croydon staff were moved there recently in an previous cost-cutting effort), the entire eight-person sport and leisure department looks like being cut.
The 12 job losses in total would mean news, sport and leisure for seven newspapers and their websites would be produced by only 12 reporters, with only two editors left to supervise the work.
There’s little doubt that the Croydon Guardian has provided a far more up to date online news coverage to supplement their (diminishing) weekly output on newsprint. But the planned job cuts seem certain to reduce the remaining staff’s ability to cover all bases.
This is how the economics of a free local newspaper works: using a network of schoolkids to tramp the streets once a week and push copies of the paper through letterboxes, they offer local businesses “guaranteed” circulation of around 100,000 – making Croydon’s one of Newsquest’s highest read newspapers in London.
One of the Croydon Guardian‘s owners’ major costs is the paper they print on. According to independent audits, 77 per cent of the local Guardian group’s newspapers were adverts.
But lately, the publishers have reduced their pagination – the number of pages printed each week. They have not cut the number of ads carried, just the amount of space for local news, much to the frustration of the journalists on the papers, who actually took union action to offer to do more work.
Now the management’s inevitable logic is that, with less space to fill with news, they have need of fewer journalists. The vast income from the advertisers will keep rolling in, they just spend less on staff, paper and ink, and so the already handsome profit margins increase. In 2009, the company recorded an operating profit of £71.7 million.
And thus the Croydon Guardian‘s readership is less well served, and importantly there is one less informed critic of local villains, and of Croydon Council. It was, for example, the Croydon Guardian‘s Mike Didymus, who broke the important story of how the council was borrowing hundreds of millions of public money to shore up the private developers’ work on Croydon’s £450 million Hub and the shiny new headquarters building.
Journalists’ union negotiator Jenny Lennox said: “The company’s short-sighted business model has reached a level where adverts are in danger of being increasingly ignored as readers toss their disappearing newspapers away unread.
“The company claims these decisions are being made amid ‘worsening trading conditions’, but the reality is Newsquest continues to rake in vast profits. At the same time they want to axe our members’ jobs and retreat from quality local journalism.
“The union is balloting for action in response to the cuts because we know our members take pride in their work and local citizens wants to read a local paper which contains local news, sports and leisure.”
The result of a ballot of National Union of Journalists members across Newsquest’s south-west division will be announced next Tuesday. Titles affected include the Croydon Guardian, Elmbridge Guardian, Epsom Guardian, Kingston Guardian, Streatham Guardian, Surrey Comet, Sutton Guardian, Wandsworth Guardian and Wimbledon Guardian.
- PM praise for local papers and websites – but no help (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Croydon arts policy: no librarians, but £1.5m for Fairfield Halls (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Newsquest journalists – give papers more space and we’ll do extra work (guardian.co.uk)