Hundreids of jobs are being cut across the newspaper industry as a downturn in advertising bites into profits. News International, Johnston Press, Newsquest and Archant are among the major groups who have recently frozen new employment across their holdings and ordered wholesale restructuring.
In December last year, Trinity Mirror, the largest regional newspaper group in the UK, went through a similar process, earning them the title of the ‘company that cancelled Christmas', according to the National Union of Journalists.
The Daily Mail Group Trust, the toughest anti-union group in the country, had attempted to go one step further and get out of the regional newspaper business altogether, but failing to find a buyer for their Northcliffe subsidiary, have launched a vicious series of cuts instead.
The industry, which has seen a huge relative decline in wages since unions were kicked out of the newsrooms in the 90s, has been largely unable to defend itself against the measures, despite strong evidence that the cuts will do more harm than good in the long term.
In the journalistic community it has been acknowledged for years that cuts to reporter numbers pushes down newspaper quality and impacts on the media's ability to investigate controversial subject matter. This in turn impacts on reader confidence, leading to a spiral of declining revenues and standards.
However, continued pressures from the stock market, coupled with a general decline in sales and the threat of online marketing, has prompted managers to increase investment in advertising while cutting it from editorial.
One SolFed member in the industry said: “These cuts should have been the basis for a resurgence in union activity, but the response has been weak. In most cases the NUJ has been worse than useless, but it's the only game in town at the moment. The old hands (working with poorly organised, mostly younger people because of the high turnover of staff) have been unable to turn things around, and their effectiveness is hamstrung by slowmoving bureaucracy.
“Every week there's a new story in the industry press of pickets on the gates of yet another paper, but the cuts are continuing regardless. The long-term decline in union power has left workers unable to respond effectively against today's assaults through the traditional system. This needs to change, and we need a tougher and faster method of organising to fight back properly.”