Newsquest, since taking over Cumbria Newspapers in March 2018, has made more than 100 staff redundant. These staff cuts have meant the loss of highly experienced journalists.
Journalists at Newsquest Cumbria have also received no pay rises since 2015 and only 2 pay rises in the past 11 years despite being asked to work dangerously long hours.
These events follow a pattern of large and often internationally owned publishing corporations taking over local titles, only to cut journalists’ jobs and require staff to relocate, often resulting in a decline in quality and standards.
The National Union of Journalists said,
“The company claim this is necessary to put a loss-making business back on an even keel – yet when the newspapers were bought for £3.6m there was £5m in the bank and the company was breaking even, despite having to pay £1m each year into its pensions account to plug a historical deficit.
“Newsquest has invested millions – in buying the company, funding a massive redundancy programme and bringing in new technology which means that reporters – as well as researching and writing – now take photographs and write headlines and will soon be expected to input listings and letters. In no other successful or sustainable industry are people expected to work like this.”
Commenting on Newsquest’s actions, Hacked Off’s Director of Policy Nathan Sparkes said,
“The business model of Newsquest and other large publishing corporations, of buying up local titles, gutting them of staff and resources, and expecting them to operate from a hub many miles from the communities they were established to serve, is a serious threat to the future of the local press in the United Kingdom.
“Action must be taken to protect journalists and the quality of the local press from the largest publishing companies, many of them compensating their executives far more generously than they fund the papers they own, which have prioritised profit over the welfare of their own employees and the quality of journalism their papers produce.”
Commenting on the journalists participating in the strike, Nathan Sparkes added,
“Without a strong, thriving and well-funded local journalism industry the UK cannot claim to have a truly free press.
“The striking journalists in Cumbria, who are fighting to defend not only the quality of news reporting in Cumbria but to turn the tide on increasingly dangerous demands placed on journalists with few alternative options, deserve all of our support.”
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