JPI Media, publisher of the i and Scotsman titles, has told staff today it is looking to cut up to 70 full-time editorial roles across the UK.
Sources have told Press Gazette that editors broke the news to staff this afternoon that the company is seeking voluntary redundancies until 14 May.
It is understood that daily national newspaper the i is exempt from the cuts.
Sixty of the proposed redundancies will fall across JPI Media’s 170 regional titles, which include dailies the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Sunderland Echo, Belfast Newsletter, and The News in Portsmouth.
A further ten roles are at risk across Scotsman titles, published under The Scotsman Publications Ltd, which include dailies the Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News, as well as Scotland on Sunday.
A JPI Media spokesperson said: “We are constantly looking to innovate and find new working structures and ways of working to respond to the declining print advertising and newspaper sales revenues we and the rest of the media industry have experienced for many years.
“As part of this, we are looking at measures to respond to immediate revenue challenges and have therefore today announced an open voluntary redundancy programme across the editorial function at JPI Media.”
JPI Media was created by former Johnston Press investors who took over the company in a pre-pack deal when JP went into administration last year, wiping out more than 60 per cent of the £220m debt owed to them.
Press Gazette reported last month that JPI Media would close eight newsrooms in a regional restructure that will see 34 staff either work remotely or relocated to one of 19 remaining offices.
We also revealed that bosses were considering putting up paywalls on some of its websites amid concerns about advertising revenues
Speaking about the proposed redundancies, a senior JPI insider said: “I fear that this is the end for local newspapers as a serious concern at JPI Media.
“Once these redundancies go through we’ll have around a third of the editorial numbers that we did ten years ago.
“Staff will continue to slog their guts out at JPI Media, but the best ones will soon be gone. And local papers across the country will soon show the effects.”
Another source told Press Gazette: “We are told The Scotsman remains ‘very profitable’. Our digital audience continues to climb at an impressive rate. We are ranked as one of the most trusted news brands in the UK.
“To make such drastic cuts to two of the company’s best performing titles therefore seems perverse.
“JPI Media apparently shares the same confusion that affected the company’s previous incarnation – it has absolutely no idea how to run a Scottish national newspaper. The company was set up to run small weekly titles and a couple of Yorkshire dailies.
“Remaining staff at The Scotsman Publications Ltd sincerely hope someone comes along to buy the titles and put an end to JPI’s decade of chaotic mismanagement.”
National Union of Journalists national organiser Laura Davison added: “The redundancy plans announced today represent a significant proportion of the editorial workforce and are really bad news.
“They come immediately after and on top of another job reduction programme which we still don’t know the formal outcome of.
“Just on Friday of last week we had written to the company flagging up our concerns about stress levels in the business and our fear is that these proposed cuts will only compound the pressures our members are under and will further damage morale.”
Last month the i newspaper was recruiting to fill 11 editorial vacancies.
Johnston Press bought the i paper in April 2016 for £24m from Independent-owner Evgeny Lebedev. It bought the Scotsman titles from Telegraph owners the Barclay brothers in 2005 for £160m.
The i sells just over 232,000 copies a day, of which 50,000 are bulk sales, according to ABC figures for February.
The Scotsman publications have a combined circulation of just over 41,500, of which The Scotsman sells 16,349, the Edinburgh Evening News sells 14,195 and Scotland on Sunday sells 10,995, according to ABC figures to the end of December last year.