The Sunday Express editorial team could reduce by more than half as owner Reach’s extensive job cuts look to fall primarily on its newly-acquired Express and Star newspaper titles, insiders have claimed.
Reach announced plans to cut more than 70 jobs across the Sunday Express, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday and the Mirror titles last month in a bid to “remove duplication of effort”.
A long-term Express staffer said the cuts were a “massive attack on the Express” in particular and have left “a lot of unhappy people” in the newsroom, which they warned could soon turn into a “news factory”.
There are understood to be about 20 staff journalists on the Sunday Express, but after redundancies this could fall to eight, the source said. They said some 63 job losses could fall between the Daily Express and Daily Star.
A number of sources have told Press Gazette that redundancies will fall entirely on the Express and Star teams – one gave the figure of 71 job cuts across both titles – with Mirror staff unaffected.
Press Gazette understands staff have been asked to apply for voluntary redundancy – with 34 applications accepted so far – followed by a round of compulsory redundancies if not enough employees come forward.
Consultations with staff are ongoing.
The £126.7m takeover deal also included celebrity magazines OK!, New! and Star. Reach has said it plans to close Star, with job losses on the title falling in addition to those across its national newspapers.
A spokesperson for Reach said: “We are creating seven-day operations on the Express and Star titles, meaning the Sundays will actually benefit from content created by a far larger pool of journalists.
“Our priority is to strengthen the integrity of the Express and Star titles, and the widely-held view, both internally and externally, is that the journalism in the Express and Star titles has improved significantly since the acquisition.
“There have been a string of exclusives in the Express newspapers in recent months, with journalists rejuvenated by their ability to work on their own stories and travel across the world to bring top-notch content to our readers.”
The cuts are understood to be falling more heavily on the Express in part because it last went through a round of cost-cutting in 2014, compared to the Mirror, which has gone through it every year.
The Mirror is also already a seven-day operation.
According to the source, the atmosphere in the Express newsroom is “awful”. “There’s not enough stuff to go around and it’s really tense and it’s horrible,” they said.
“The new management haven’t been welcomed with open arms at all.
“Everyone is very pessimistic about the future and not only for their own futures but for the future of the four [Express and Star] titles, because if they’re not going to invest in original content then the readers will just leave and they won’t bother buying it again.”
Shortly after the Reach takeover, both the editor of the Daily Express and the Daily Star stood down and were replaced by Mirror journalists.
The staffer also warned of a “gradual tabloidisation of the Sunday Express, which readers might not like”, in reference to its content. The title is currently a mid-market newspaper published in a tabloid format.
They said travel content would now be shared across the Express, Star and Mirror titles all of whom are trying to reach “different readerships”, adding: “It will be like a news factory.”
Said the source: “[Reach] have got this massive cost of the Mirror from the phone-hacking bills and they’ve got some people who aren’t doing much and they’re giving them something to do by writing copy for the Express.
“There’ll be very little individuality in the Sunday Express and the Daily Express left.”
A Reach spokesperson said: “We do believe that there are some areas where we can share content and manage our resources more wisely, but we will always protect the distinct identities of the titles – and their diverse political opinions.”
Sunday Express circulation sits at 299,222, falling by ten per cent year-on-year, according to ABC figures to August. The Daily Express circulation was down also down by ten per cent to 338,843.