VNU to enlist news groups to train staff on central hub

VNU, one of Europe’s leading B2B magazine publishers, is planning to enlist the help of the Press Association and the London Evening Standard to train journalists to work on its newly established central news hub.

The controversial plan to create a central pool of 10 journalists to feed its  IT titles is designed to reduce overlap between Computing, IT Week, Computer Reseller News and PC World.

The proposal, which coincides with the loss of more than 50 jobs, has come under criticism from staff. But VNU chiefs said they have reached a "service-level agreement" with editors and are now seeking the help of news organisations.

Newly appointed editorial director Caroline Gabriel told Press Gazette: "The copy that is delivered from the news team will be finished, fully developed copy with the strongest angle and best quotes we can find, as if you were writing for one reader but with more than one readership in mind.

"It is a question of giving really good training to the team in the first few weeks to make sure they fully understand the magazines they haven’t actually worked on. We have got quite a heavy training programme looking at how news is done. We are having people come in from other news organisations to see how they do it." The central news pool, to launch on 5 November, includes Steve Ranger, Rachel Fielding and Andy McCue (formerly at Computing), Karl Flinders (formerly at CRN), Abigail Waraker, Peter Williams, Chris Lee and Gareth Morgan (formerly at IT Week), Ian Lynch (formerly at vnunet.com) and Rene Millman (formerly at Network News).

VNU has yet to appoint an editor to  have the final say on which stories will be covered and who will cover them.

Publishing director Tony Loynes said VNU had reached an agreement with editors on the level of quality, direction, commissioning and volume that would be required. "There is absolutely no intention here of producing bland, straightforward copy," he said. "The philosophy behind this is that we have got some 30 IT publications around the world. It doesn’t make a lot of sense if you have got that scale to be doing the same thing 30 times and particularly now, when our markets have been slaughtered."

Loynes said there would be more section editors but "relatively few" reporters left on the IT magazines.

Staff now fear a similar restructure on the finance, business and management titles but Loynes said there was "less of an obvious need" for a central news team there. He suggested there could be strong links and some sharing of material between the non-IT journalists and the central news team.

By Ruth Addicott

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