An unofficial hiring freeze has seen job interviews cancelled for the second time in five months at Newsquest South London, leaving the newsroom short eight staff, claims the NUJ.
Interviews for senior reporter and content editor roles were arranged and then cancelled without explanation, the National Union of Journalists has said.
The union claims that since March two content editors, four senior reporters and one trainee have resigned because they were “disillusioned” by the company’s practices and have yet to be replaced.
A digital editor has also left without replacement from the Sutton-based hub. Of the reporters, two are still working out their notice periods – the union reports.
The union says every hiring decision must now be signed off by Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker, resulting in what it described as a “back-door restructuring” of the newsroom.
An NUJ spokesperson said: “Journalists have been left without any guidance, or any communication whatsoever regarding the future direction of a newsroom where staffing is at dangerously low levels.
“Repeated requests for clarification have been ignored.”
An NUJ chapel spokesperson said: “It is the not-knowing that takes its toll. Our team, which works incredibly hard, is only just treading water.
“Newsquest’s digital-first strategy is in tatters here.
“Reporters and content editors are at full stretch to produce quality newspapers, with little time left over to truly serve our readers online.
“Stagnating or falling web traffic has been masked by the use of picture galleries, which log one page view per image the reader sees.”
They added: “Journalists who love local news are paying the price for years of poor management by Newsquest…. everyone is thinking, ‘Who will leave next, and will I have to do their work as well?’.”
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “We are urging Newsquest to address the acute and harmful pressures they have put on the newsroom and our members.
“These constant and relentless cuts are making local journalism in South London unsustainable.
“Newsquest senior management have adopted a cavalier, bunker mentality and they must now take urgent action to improve the dire working conditions they have created.”
Newsquest South London has an editorial team of around 30 covering 14 boroughs in London, Surrey and north Kent.
Titles produced at the hub include free weeklies the Croydon, Epsom, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times (part-paid), the Surrey Comet (paid) and the free weekly News Shopper (which has editions covering Bexley, Bromley, Dartford, Gravesend, Greenwich and Lewisham), as well as their associated websites.
Newsquest has yet to respond to Press Gazette’s request for comment.
Picture: Google Maps