Regional publisher National World is cutting around 30 journalist jobs across the UK and replacing them with the same number of digital roles at its new city websites.
Ex-Local World boss David Montgomery (pictured) bought JPI Media, the third biggest regional publisher in the UK, at the end of 2020 and has since launched several standalone city websites and a UK-wide news website called National World. The company has also fully rebranded from JPI to National World.
Press Gazette understands that a number of staff have already taken redundancy, more volunteers are being sought and 32 are currently at risk of redundancy.
Meanwhile, the company is creating 30 new digital journalist roles at its new “Metro World” websites, launched over the past year in seven cities including London, Birmingham and Manchester with three more to come according to its latest trading update. Press Gazette understands that some of the staff being offered alternative digital roles would have to move to a new city.
The biggest impacts are expected to be felt at the publisher’s ex-JPI titles in Yorkshire, Scotland and Portsmouth.
National World’s Yorkshire titles, which include The Yorkshire Post and The Yorkshire Evening Post, are set to see cuts to seven roles, although five staff are to be rehired in digital roles, with one becoming a local democracy reporter and one taking voluntary redundancy, meaning a net loss of one job.
Press Gazette understands local outlets in Halifax, Dewsbury and Wakefield will see some merging of editorial operations.
In Portsmouth, home of the Portsmouth News, eight staff are at risk, in particular in the sports and audio-visual teams.
The Scotsman is expected to target a reduction of roughly five roles, although the exact number of staff at risk has not been finalised.
Meanwhile, five staff are at risk in National World’s central region titles largely in sport, four full-time equivalent staff are set to be lost at its Sussex weeklies, and a minimum of four staff are set to be cut at the group’s other weekly titles.
The move is part of a wider set of editorial restructures at the group, the total scope of which has not been made fully clear.
National World had a total of 713 full and part-time editorial staff as of May 2022. National World bought by JPI Media for £10.2m in December 2020.
A spokesperson for National World said: “Given the rapidly changing nature of the media marketplace, National World is continually reorganising its teams to best serve its national footprint and the many city world launches that have taken place in the last 18 months.
“This involves a measure of redeployment, voluntary redundancy options and recruitment of 30 new digital journalist roles, which are currently being advertised.
“We have highly motivated teams who relish the changes taking place to our publishing model in order to take advantage of individual expertise and to further automate historical industrial editorial production processes, which will make National World more competitive and relevant to our customers.”
A source at an impacted title told Press Gazette: “It is incredibly frustrating to watch what is in effect an SEO click farm in National World grow, new sites like the city world sites start, all while legacy titles are cut within an inch of their life.”
They went on: “At some point owners of regional newspapers need to realise that warm words about investment and chasing clicks instead of quality will lead them, their companies, and their workers to oblivion and they will only have themselves as CEOs and board members to blame for the death of local journalism.”
Another suggested that the redundancies were being targeted at long-term staff on “dinosaur money” in an effort to cut down costs and warned that the move would leave the remaining staff in some cases “doing the job of three or four people”.
“We’ve got members of staff who are routinely working 23 straight days a month because there are no other members of staff who can cover them or step in for them,” they said.
Another source close to the affected National World titles said that “morale is at an all-time low” at the brands and that it “feels like there’s no sense of permanent direction”.
“It just feels like one restructuring after another after another,” they added. “I think it will be devastating on both people who are being made redundant, and those that will still be there.”
They went on: “Once you’ve lost the trust of your readers, it’s very hard to win it back.”
National World’s latest trading update, published on 26 May, said it was “accelerating our transformation into a premium content and sales business across all platforms. We continue to launch new products, invest in organic growth, enhance heritage assets and streamline our infrastructure to create further efficiencies.”
The company made £86m in revenue in 2021 and pre-tax profits of £8.6m.
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Picture: Reuters / Morten Holm