Northcliffe journalists fear for jobs as editors are axed

By Jon Slattery

The sudden axeing of two of Northcliffe’s longest serving editors has sent shockwaves through the group.

Journalists fear that the departures of Mike Lowe after nearly nine
years at the Bristol Evening Post and David Gledhill after 11 years at
The Bath Chronicle signal a major cost-cutting programme.

According
to insiders, Gledhill went because he was not keen on exploring turning
the Chronicle from a daily into a weekly or bi-weekly. Lowe is
understood to have opposed moves to merge editorial jobs on the Evening
Post and sister morning title the Western Daily Press.

Significantly,
staff at Bristol were told this week that Derby Evening Telegraph
editor Mike Norton is being drafted in to the new post of
editor-in-chief of Bristol United Press (BUP), publisher of the Evening
Post and Western Daily Press.

The move means that WDP editor Terry Manners will be reporting direct to Norton, who will edit the Evening Post.

Journalists in Bristol fear jobs will go if a central subbing or a joint newsdesk and photographic operation is introduced.

In
Bath, a cut in the frequency of the daily Chronicle would also have a
significant impact on jobs. Sales of the paper are down 8.2 per cent
year-onyear to 13,947.

Evening Post staff were astonished by the ousting of Lowe, who is one of the best-known editors in Northcliffe.

Many
of the top journalists in Northcliffe have worked for him. Lowe has
edited two of its evenings, The Citizen, Gloucester, and the Derby
Evening Telegraph. He is credited with turning the sales of the Bristol
Evening Post around, the paper is expected to show an increase in the
next ABCs, at a time when big city evening papers across the UK are
showing dramatic falls. Under his editorship, the Evening Post has
picked up a string of awards.

Latest ABC figures show the Evening
Post selling 63,870. Journalists question whether there is any real
synergy between the Evening Post, which concentrates on Bristol
stories, and the Western Daily Press, which covers the surrounding area
of the West Country.

The fear elsewhere in Northcliffe is that
editors-in-chief will be appointed at other centres in the group and
staff rationalised as the company tries to achieve the 30 per cent plus
margins enjoyed by Johnston Press.

One insider commented: “In
Northcliffe, the accountants are now in charge and they seem to have
lost faith in the regional newspapers. There is a lot of fear in the
group and I would be amazed if there weren’t more changes to come. The
experienced editors – the awkward squad – are going.”

In a
cost-cutting move in April, BUP axed 10 jobs on the weekly
BristolObserver, when its staff was merged with the Evening Post.

Lowe declined to comment on his departure.

BUP managing director Tim Kitchen said: “Mike resigned from the organisation.

What
we are looking for is a closer working relationship between editorial
departments and we believe with an editor-in-chief in situ, that will
happen.”

He said no firm decisions had been made about merging any editorial functions.

Gledhill
told Press Gazette: “I’ve had 11 brilliant years in Bath and have
managed to keep it as a daily paper for those 11 years. There cannot be
a better place to be an editor.”

Andrew Calvert, managing
director of Western Newspapers, publisher of The Bath Chronicle, said
of Gledhill’s going: “This departure is entirely unrelated to any
future plans we have with the paper.

The immediate task we have is to keep doing what we are doing, producing the best possible paper for the people of Bath.”

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