Johnston Press is planning on restructuring its weekly news operation in Northern Ireland with the loss of eight full-time equivalent editorial roles.
The regional publisher has twenty-plus titles in the region (including newspapers and magazines) and has claimed the move will “preserve the future” of unprofitable news titles and offers an alternative to closure.
It has laid blame for the proposed cuts at the door of audience migration to digital and lower online advertising revenues “compounded by the likes of Google and Facebook” who compete for the same revenues.
In an internal memo to staff, seen by Press Gazette, Johnston Press said some titles in Northern Ireland were “challenged”.
“Though the number of affected titles is fewer than in Scotland there is a requirement for some restructuring of our weeklies news and communities teams which will allow us to continue to publish all our titles in the most efficient way and ensure our smallest titles remain viable while at the same time targeting our resource at those titles which continue to make a larger contribution to the company’s revenues.
“The planned restructuring will mean a reduction of around eight full-time equivalent in the editorial staff required.
“We have already taken a number of measures as part of our plan to protect our titles and get them back into profit… these include, increasing cover prices, reducing terms for newsagents and, where appropriate, reducing paginations.
“These are difficult but necessary measures to preserve the future of these titles and we explained this to readers when we introduced the recent cover price rise.”
The publisher added: “In some respects the ‘easy’ option would be to close those titles which are not profitable now and continue that process going forward.
“We are acutely aware of the effect these options would have on our employees and the communities our newspapers serve, who often rely on them, and associated digital products, as their only source of trusted local news. And so we are trying to find alternatives which this restructure is addressing.”
The daily Belfast News Letter, bi-weekly Derry Journal, and sport and digital teams “will be largely unaffected”, according to Johnston Press.
Under the plans, weeklies will be published with a “strict adherence to set templates” under a 48-page format, according to the memo. “Small titles will all follow the same basic format… to ensure production is as streamlined as possible…”.
Affected staff in both the news and communities teams have been told they can apply for voluntary redundancy or reduced working hours.
The restructure is understood to have followed cuts to advertising staff last week.