Observer SOS: Journalists believe Obs will survive

Journalists at the Observer believe the paper will continue in a slimmed down format rather than be closed, as many fear.

Press Gazette has spoken with a number of figures at the Observer, and the broad consensus amongst the paper’s staff is that it will stay open despite Guardian Media Group reviewing options to safeguard the future of the business.

One Observer insider told Press Gazette managers had been privately telling journalists the paper would not shut down, with others claiming proposals to turn the paper into a stand-alone weekly news magazine have been pushed to the backburner.

A further well-placed editorial source said opinions for GMG now included closing the title and replacing it with a Sunday edition of the Guardian, possibly with an Observer fold-in magazine. However, the more likely course of action, the source said, was relaunching a cut-down version of the Sunday paper, not unlike the two-section Independent on Sunday.

Turning the paper into a stand-alone weekly news magazine, they added, was the least likely option and may already have been ruled out.

Rumour and speculation about the future of the title have been rife in recent weeks. GMG has remained tight-lipped about its plans ahead of completion of the review – but it has stressed that no decisions have yet been taken.

Reports earlier this month suggested the stand-alone City section and the travel supplement could both be rolled into other sections as part of slimmed-down version of the paper.

Journalists fear the Observer’s stable of award-winning magazines, including its regular monthly magazines and the Weekend supplement, could be done away with if the proposal for a slimmed-down version of the paper is adopted.

These concerns come after the Observer’s head of magazines, Nicola Jeal, announced earlier this month that she was leaving Guardian News & Media to become the new weekend editor of the Times.

GMG admitted that “all options” were under review earlier this month after a Sunday Times report suggested that it was considering closing the 218-year-old title – the world’s oldest Sunday paper – as a way of safeguarding the businesses after the parent company recorded an £89.8m annual losses.

Carolyn McCall, chief executive of GMG, said despite a £20 million cost savings programme at GNM heavy losses would continue this year.

Guardian and Observer staff were told earlier this year that management was considering a range of cost-saving options as part of a three-year strategy.

A spokesman for GMG said: “Guardian News & Media is conducting a careful and thorough review of all its operations. No decisions have been taken, and we will not comment on speculation until we are in a position to talk to our staff about the outcome of the review.”

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