Most of the journalists – or at least, any journalists who are left – at local free papers the Croydon Guardian and the Sutton Guardian have been put on notice of redundancy by the company which owns them, Newsquest, in the latest round of savage cost-cutting which seems certain to further undermine news coverage and scrutiny in south London.
The company cited “difficult trading conditions with sustained pressure on the profitability of the group” for the latest cuts. According to its last set of company accounts, Newsquest reported annual profits of £60million in 2014.
The announcement follows on from doom-laden warnings about the demise as a serious source of news of the Redhill-based Croydon Sadvertiser last month from its departing chief reporter. The paid-for Sadvertiser’s circulation has plunged by 70,000 in four years.
Sources at the Croydon Guardian suggest that their owners now want just 12 journalists to work on 11 newspaper titles and eight associated websites across London and the south-east. Less than a decade ago, just one of those newspapers alone had 12 reporters dedicated to covering its “patch”.
“These proposals will not only destroy our already struggling newsroom and ruin the brands we have worked hard to build up, but they are quite simply unworkable,” an official from the National Union of Journalists’ chapel said.
“Senior management refuse to meet the union or acknowledge our attempts to meet with them. Running a business in this way would be farcical if it wasn’t so tragic.”
Newsquest has told its employees that four reporters, two content editors, three sub-editors, an editorial assistant and the deputy managing editor will all be lose their jobs by mid-October.
The company is also is dispute with a local photography agency, after terminating its coverage deal. The management’s plan appears to be to use pictures sent in by readers (if it has any left), or photos taken on smart phones by its reporters.
Before the redundancies announcement, Newsquest’s staff were already balloting for industrial action over inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads, reduced quality of newspapers, the health and safety of employees, plus pay.
Eight members of staff who have left the various titles across the south-east since April have not been replaced.
Laura Davidson, the NUJ’s national organiser, criticised the company’s managing director and chief executive for their “bunker” mentality, after they refused to make the redundancy announcement in person to the affected staff.
“Their slash and burn proposals expose the shabby reality of Newsquest’s drive for soul-less savings at the expense of absolutely anything else,” Davidson said.
- Still Croydon’s only independent news source, and based in the heart of the borough: 1.97 million page views 2013-2015
- Inside Croydon: Named among best regional media campaigns, 2014
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