Observer staff 'gutted' at high profile exits

Observer staff were today said to be gutted that another of the title's top names has quit amid ongoing uncertainty over its future.

Five-times British Press Awards winner Lynn Barber has confirmed that she is leaving the title after 16 years to join the the Sunday Times. Her exit follows that of the Observer's award-winning head of magazines Nicola Jeal - who revealed last month that she was leaving to become the new weekend editor of The Times.

An Observer insider said: "People are gutted to see big names walk out of the door and by the damage being done to The Observer's reputation."

Guardian Media Group is considering closing The Observer as one of a range of options to stem losses for Guardian News and Media which totalled £36.8m in the last financial year.

Press Gazette and the National Union of Journalists have both launched campaigns to save the title, the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, from the threat of closure. And on Monday a star-studded Stand up for The Observer event is being held at the Friends Meeting House in Euston Road, London, from 7pm hosted by comedian David Mitchell.

Barber told The Guardian: "I am incredibly sorry to be leaving all my dear colleagues at the Observer, but I hated the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen to the paper, and particularly the possibility that it might be amalgamated with the Guardian. So when the Sunday Times made me a generous offer to join the magazine, I jumped at it. I am sorry though."

In a Press Gazette interview which appeared in the August issue of the magazine Barber, 65, said: "I have no plans to retire from journalism. I love it."

Condemning recent rounds of editorial cost-cutting in the national press she said: "It's been very sad because very young journalists I know who have just got one foot on the ladder - they're the ones that are getting axed. They're the ones they should be keeping."

The Scott Trust, which owns Guardian News and Media, is understood to be holding a preliminary meeting to discuss the future of The Observer on Monday. A decision over the cost-cutting plan is expected to be made at the autumn meeting of the trust - the date of which has not been revealed.

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