Petty cuts undermine staff morale and public perception

Journalism organisations can be surprisingly bad at PR.

This week, South Wales Evening Post journalists were outraged after being told that extra payments for Sunday working were to be scrapped.

They had already taken on radically different shift patterns to accommodate overnight printing but it would seem that this last change was a move to far.

Two weeks ago, Press Gazette reported that journalists across several Newsquest regional newspaper centres were told by managers that they would be docked holiday time if they were unable to make it into work due to snow.

Cutbacks such as these make tiny savings in the context of the healthy profit margins — of between 20 and 30 per cent — still enjoyed by the big regional newspaper companies.

But they send out a message that journalists are not valued by the people who own newspapers.

Considering that it is the reporters, photographers, subs and desk editors who generate the content which every penny in the regional press coffers is based on, it would be bizarre if that was really the case.

It is unfortunately a fact of life that journalism — and especially regional journalism — is never going to be the best paid job in Britain.

But even in under-staffed and over-worked regional newsrooms, it remains one of the most enjoyable jobs and it is for that reason that journalists must be among the most flexible of all employees.

With no incentive other than the possibility of a "good show" in the next issue, we work untold extra overtime, like the Carlisle News & Star journalists who abandoned a restaurant birthday celebration on Friday night to cover the Virgin train crash.

But that flexibility is also based on a relationship of trust and fair play between employer and employee.

The bean counters in human resources who seem to think it is worth destroying their own staff's morale to claw back a few pounds for the bottom line would be wise to think again.

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