Newsquest’s sports desk covering ten titles across south London has been “eradicated” by redundancies and resignations, Press Gazette has been told.
A sports editor and full-time reporter were both made redundant under the regional publisher’s planned cuts, which saw 27 out of 29 staff put at risk of redundancy.
Another part-time sports reporter left the company as a result of the changes.
Papers affected include the Richmond and Twickenham Times – which has the home of England Rugby on its patch – the Surrey Comet, seven Guardian series titles and the News Shopper, which has five editions.
“Under the new structure, there is no specific sports department or job,” an anonymous source told Press Gazette.
“As I understand it, the sports editor role would be swallowed up by news content editors and the sports reporting would be done by news reporters.
“It came as quite a shock when we realised there was no specific sports role and the department was effectively being eradicated.
“They clearly consider that sports can be done by someone who isn’t a sports reporter – and the same with leisure.”
Journalists at Newsquest south London are in their second week of strike action (pictured) as part of an ongoing dispute over cuts, understaffing, increased workloads and what they say is a decline in the quality of newspapers being produced at the office.
A number of redundancies took place last week following consultation with staff. Newspapers published this week attributed sports stories to an unnamed “Sports Reporter”.
Not having a sports desk meant there was “no point of contact” for local clubs and that only press releases from the bigger clubs would make it into the paper because reporters won’t have time to make the necessary phone calls, the source said.
“There’s going to be a lot of little local clubs, whatever sport it might be, who won’t necessarily get the hands on coverage that they have been getting – they deserve to be recognised.
“What will happen going forward I have absolutely no idea but I think it might prove costly in terms of people being disappointed in the quality of the paper.”
The NUJ has claimed Newsquest’s cuts will leave 12 reporters and four editors covering 11 titles and eight associated websites across south London.
The source described the atmosphere in the Sutton newsroom as “poisonous towards the management”, adding: “There’s no communication at all.
“These announcements are just passed down or read out and some of the top brass, it’s almost as if they don’t want to see the results of their cuts.
“People feel very much overworked anyway because a number of reporters have left and not been replaced.”
A Newsquest spokesperson said: “A restructuring of the south London newsroom has seen a change in the way that we will report news, sport and leisure. This will enable us to continue to provide great local content in these communities.
“This restructuring of the editorial department has been in the public domain for a number of weeks and has been reported on countless times.”