Job cuts at Times said to be down to compact title cost

Tabloid Times: has proved costly

Editorial jobs are being cut at The Times amid claims that the cull is to pay for the cost of publishing the tabloid version.

The most high-profile casualty so far is former foreign correspondent Christopher Walker who is to leave after 32 years at the paper. No spokesman at The Times was available for comment at the time of going to press, but insiders have speculated that up to 40 jobs may go in total and consultation is understood to be ongoing.

The Times began publishing in two sizes in the London area last November and this week began offering readers across the UK the chance to buy either version. The cost of producing, distributing and promoting the tabloid version has been a multimillion pound investment.

Walker was invited into managing editor George Brock’s office last Thursday week and informed that his contract was to be terminated. A severance package has yet to be agreed.

According to a source within the paper, News International is seeking “agreed severances” rather than official redundancies, whereby staff agree to leave in exchange for what is seen as a generous pay-off.

Walker had served mostly on The Times’ foreign desk, spending 13 years in Jerusalem, six in Cairo, three in Moscow and seven in Northern Ireland.

He was imprisoned and deported from Nairobi after he compared president Moi to the Romanian dictator Ceausescu.

Walker returned to Wapping two years ago where he has been working as a senior UK news reporter.

A Times insider said: “They are worried about losses being made as a result of the tabloid, and having to produce it as well as the larger edition.

“Unlike The Independent, if they got rid of the broadsheet they would have loads of protest letters.

“People are saying if that’s what happens to a loyal Times servant who has served for such a long time in some of the shit-holes of the world, what about their own career prospects?” Another journalist at The Times said he believed the number of staff cut could total 30 to 40. He said 12 had already taken voluntary redundancy and a further four had been “asked to agree to go” by accepting a payoff.

“Dissatisfaction is growing because staff are relying on rumour in the absence of any statement from the News International Staff Association,” he said.

By Dominic Ponsford

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