Sunderland Echo editor leaves amid Johnston Press cutbacks

The editor of the Sunderland Echo has abruptly left the paper amid ongoing cutbacks at the Johnston Press title.

Rob Lawson's departure comes as the company revealed it was closing its print press in Sunderland and moving it to Sheffield with the loss of more than 80 jobs.

Earlier this month Johnston also announced it was switching production and sub-editing of its North East titles from Sunderland to Sheffield, which is more than 120 miles away.

In a statement the company said: “Rob Lawson, editorial director of Northeast Press Ltd and editor of the Sunderland Echo has decided to leave the company to pursue outside business opportunities.

“Rob has made an outstanding contribution to Northeast Press, and latterly the group in his role as chairman of the Editorial Review Group, and we wish him well for the future.

“A further announcement will be made in due course regarding the vacant role.”

Lawson became editor of the paper in 2002 and before that was editor of the Shields Gazette.

In April the company announced it was closing five newspaper offices in the North East – including those of the Hartlepool Mail and Shields Gazette – with the loss of six jobs.

Offices at South Shields, Hartlepool, Berwick, Kelso and Selkirk were closed and editorial and advertising staff relocated to the head office in Sunderland, home to the Sunderland Echo.

Last week Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield defended the company’s relaunch strategy after Press Gazette obtained new figures revealing significant circulation declines on most of its new-look titles.

Figures from insiders at the Edinburgh-based publisher show sales of the five daily papers it switched to weeklies in May have fallen on average by 22.8 per cent from launch compared with the week of 25 August.

They also reveal that during the same week 11 of the relaunched weeklies averaged year-on-year circulation declines of 14 per cent.

Here is some of the reaction to Lawson’s departure on Twitter:

Lawson himself tweeted:

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