Technology which enables newspaper reporters to write their stories directly into pre-designed newspaper pages has led to 12 editorial redundancies at Newsquest titles in Wiltshire and Oxford.
Staff at the Oxford Mail, Swindon Advertiser, Wiltshire Gazette & Herald and the Wiltshire Times were told yesterday of the cuts affecting the news and production teams.
Roles at risk of redundancy include the news content editor, deputy features editor, photojournalist and two senior content managers in Oxford.
At Newsquest’s Wiltshire offices, roles at risk include the group web editor, news editor and three content managers (in Swindon) and a chief reporter and editorial assistant (in Trowbridge).
Newsquest’s managing director for Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, Chris Moore, told staff in a message: “New advances in technology have created an opportunity for efficiency savings which, regretfully, could result in the restructure of our editorial department in Wiltshire.
“However, these potential reductions mean that we can continue to invest in front line reporter roles which form part of our plans for a sustainable future.”
Earlier this month, editorial development director Toby Granville told the Society of Editors conference on a panel about ideas and innovation that Newsquest’s “big innovation” was print.
He said: “To find more ways of making our newspapers and producing the more efficiently we did this first through a new template system and we also created a copy-editing hub and now we have a process where reporters are actually writing directly on to shapes on pages themselves.
“That’s obviously meant we have lost talented sub-editors and other production managers along the way, but it’s been one of those difficult decisions that has meant we could continue to invest in those generating content.”
He added: “Our aim, basically, through innovation is to have the most efficient newsrooms in the business.”
A Swindon source told Press Gazette the cuts announced yesterday were a “huge blow for staff”, adding: “We are a close-knit team and we’ve been hitting record digital figures in recent months while still managing to keep the inevitable decline in paper sales to a minimum.”
They said the new technology being referred to by management was an “increased reliance on ‘write to shape’ software”.
“That is fine for routine stories, but we pride ourselves on our great supplements and features with their bespoke layouts and exciting presentation,” they said.
“It doesn’t appear that due consideration has been given to how we will continue to deliver these staples of our paper without a production desk.”
A Newsquest spokesperson said: “We continue to look for ways to run our business more efficiently in order to ensure that our titles have a sustainable cost structure for the future…
“Whilst the potential redundancies are regrettable, it means we can continue to invest in front line reporters and content generators which are central to the continued success of our publishing business.”