VNU axes 50 and angers staff with 'news hub' plans

Brin Bucknor

 At least 50 magazine staff have lost their jobs in the latest round of cost-cutting at VNU Business Publications and the company is to set up a central pool of journalists to work across its titles.

The redundancies across VNU’s best-known IT titles affect many senior journalists and include the posts of executive editor, deputy editor and features editor on flagship title Computing.

PC World, Computer Reseller News and IT Week have also lost staff, several of whom are considering legal action.

The job losses were announced along with controversial plans to launch a "central news hub" of 10 journalists, designed to reduce editorial overlap between the titles.

But the plans have been criticised by VNU staff and editors, who have voiced concern about editorial quality.

A group of editors is known to have approached management last month with an alternative strategy to keep their reporters. It was rejected on the grounds that the titles could be differentiated by tone, style, comment and analysis, but not news.

The cutbacks at VNU have also hit freelance, art and travel budgets as well as pagination. Some staff fear the magazines will rely heavily on free contributions from analysts and vendors. "There is a lot of disgust on all editorial levels. The people left are having to make an awful lot of journalistic compromises they are not entirely happy with," a source said.

Brin Bucknor, managing director of VNU, said there were no immediate plans for any closures or further job cuts. He said: "We think that with the online availability of news, people are looking for a different angle from magazines.

"The idea for exclusives for exclusivity’s sake has gone, people want to be informed. What the magazines will be able to do is pick and choose information relevant to their readers."

Karl Schneider, editor of Reed’s Computer Weekly, which has won awards for its investigations, claimed: "You cannot produce exclusives by using a team of people which is the journalistic equivalent of a typing pool. It is fundamentally the wrong way to go about producing a great paper."

By Ruth Addicott

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