One of the oldest newspapers in the world, the Berrow's Worcester Journal, is to be sub-edited 90 miles away in Wales under Newsquest's latest subbing hub plan.
Three years after subbing and production of Newsquest’s Midlands South division was centralised in Worcester the company has announced plans to move production again, this time to a centralised subbing centre 90 miles away in Newport, Wales.
Some 15 journalists could lose their jobs as a result of the move, but an unspecified number of new jobs will be created in Newport.
The titles affected include the daily Worcester News as well as weekly titles: the Ledbury Reporter, Malvern Gazette, Halesowen News and the Berrow's Worcester Journal (founded in 1690).
Newsquest wants to cut jobs by making use of a template-based copy-editing system which is being installed at Newsquest’s Wales HQ in Newport.
The National Union of Journalists has voiced concern that the new system will mirror problems at Newsquest Glasgow, where members threatened industrial action and described it as “not fit for purpose”.
Newsquest said: "Given the current and forecasted economic climate in the UK, all areas of the business are continually being explored to ensure we are as efficient as possible.
“The company has invested in a new editorial system in Wales and Gloucestershire region. This gives us greater flexibility, improves our news gathering facilities, and provides staff with upgraded equipment to better meet the ever-changing needs of our business. The system provides a more streamlined workflow for the production of pages, along with direct interfaces with our digital platforms. This has created efficiencies in a number of areas which will be outlined in detail in due course.”
NUJ northern England and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said: “Our members are in shock at the ambush prepared for them by managers when they came back to start a new working week.
“The company justifies its actions by blaming the economy and its prospects. But, surprisingly for a newspaper company, it seems to have missed the recent proclamations from the government, the CBI and many other business groups that the corner has apparently been turned.
“It also flies in the face of evidence from Newsquest’s own accounts that show last year the directors rewarded themselves with a massive 23 per cent ‘performance-related’ bonus increase to £349,000 while they also luxuriated in a near doubling of payments from share options to £641,000.
“It is astonishing that just three years ago bosses were trying to convince staff that it would make no difference to the localness of their journalism if subbing was switched 40 miles away to a new hub in Worcester. They now pretend it does not matter that that same subbing can be done in a different country.
“This includes the longest continuously published newspaper in the world, the Berrows Worcester Journal. Newsquest seems to know no boundaries in its bid to line the pockets of its parent company’s American shareholders.
“We will be working with our members to try to mitigate the impact of this process but it is clear to see that the company is hell-bent on driving out jobs, and with them a wealth of experience, in the production of its journalism. It sends a stark message to newsrooms in the group up and down the country.”
Newsquest journalist Bob Smith, who is father of the group NUJ chapel, said: “Journalists and readers alike know that moving production out of the local area creates less attractive newspapers which add to the already alarming decline in sales which Newsquest’s managers are overseeing.
“If this annihilation of subbing departments continues across Newsquest, our members must be fearful, for not only their jobs, but for the future of the company’s titles.”