Observer saved: But hard times still beckon

Observer staff have cautiously welcomed last night’s announcement that their title has been saved from the threat of closure.

Axing the Observer, and possibly turning it into a weekly magazine, was one of the options considered as part of a wide-ranging review of costs across Guardian News and Media – which lost £36.8m in its last financial year.

Editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger revealed last night that a “new-look” Observer produced by editor John Mulholland has been well received in research – as have new ideas for the Saturday Guardian, and that GNM now remains committed to publishing both titles. But he said there will be further integration between the Guardian and Observer titles – and warned that more job cuts are inevitable.

An Observer insider said: “People aren’t over the moon because what they have said is we will be producing a new product and we have no idea if our section is going to be part of it.

“The feeling is that we won’t be jumping to celebrate just yet. Across the company it feels like that it will now be hard times for everybody – all the focus isn’t on the Observer any more.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “We welcome the commitment to retain the Observer as a distinctive title with its own editorial authority.

“But we need reassurances about jobs and want to see plans which give the paper the resources it needs for a viable future.”

Guardian News and Media employs around 800 editorial staff, around 700 of whom are believed to be journalists.

Rusbridger said in a statement to staff yesterday: “We need to make substantial savings from our budget and will be looking at all areas. Because staff costs account for a very high proportion of our total editorial costs it is, as we have said before, inevitable that the headcount within editorial will have to fall further.

“We will look to achieve the reductions in staffing levels through voluntary means. We will shortly be re-opening a voluntary redundancy scheme and will continue to consult the relevant unions.”

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