Northcliffe is proposing to cut nearly one in three editorial jobs at its two Bristol-based daily papers – the Evening Post and the Western Daily Press.
Particularly severe cuts are expected at the Western Daily Press, where one option under consideration is to turn it into a publication which, like free daily Metro, has a very small dedicated editorial staff and which originates little of its own material.
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The latest job cuts come after Northcliffe cut 36 journalists when it largely merged the two Bristol-based dailies in 2005.
Under the new changes, 45 editorial jobs are to go from the Western Daily Press and the Evening Post.
Press Gazette understands that under the changes the two dailies, and their associated weeklies, will operate an “open-basket” editorial system – where all journalists file their work to one central location, and where a centralised team of editors produce the papers.
According to the NUJ, Northcliffe’s Bristol News and Media division made a profit of £7.5m in 2007. Overall, Northcliffe made a profit of £68m last year on revenue of £420m.
Susie Weldon, the NUJ mother of chapel for Northcliffe’s Bristol papers, told Press Gazette: “We are all in complete shock because three years ago we went through a very bruising redundancy process when 20 per cent of staff went. We feel that we’ve been cut to the bone already.
“We all understand that the newspaper industry is going through extraordinary times – but we feel that this drastic cutting back of staff is not going to improve the quality of the product.
“Staff also feel very aggreived that newspaper owners who enjoyed such huge profits in the past have now turned on staff who are already paid such low wages.”
She added: “I’m seriously worried about the future of democracy in this country – what is happening to newsrooms all over this country has huge implications for how local authorities are held to account.
“What is happening has massive implications for society as a whole.”
The Western Daily Press recently celebrated its 150th anniversary and has an average circulation of about 40,000 across the west of England.
NUJ national executive member Tim Lezard is a former reporter for the WDP.
He said: “This is not a company that’s on its knees as a result of the credit crunch – it is just making less money than it was.
“It was making a profit margin of 18.5 per cent in 2007 – that’s far more than Tesco.
“They are getting rid of one of the West Country’s most famous brand names just to satisfy their lust for more profit.
“It’s an example of Northcliffe’s contempt for their readers, workers and advertisers.
“The company would rather bow to its boardroom than serve the community it has been an integral part of for 150 years.”
Northcliffe Parent company Daily Mail and General Trust, which is controlled by the Rothermere family, made profits last year of £262m.
Mike Norton, editor of the Bristol Evening Post and editorial director for the Northcliffe West and Wales region said: “I have tried to do everything I can to avoid redundancies.
“However, I have no other option that will ensure the futures of the Evening Post and the Western Daily Press.
“This is about back-of-house production efficiencies and will not affect the amount or the quality of our content.
“We will continue to provide the best local news and advertising service through our print and digital platforms.”