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November 7, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:32am

Journalists warn fresh cuts by Newsquest in Cumbria will ‘damage’ reputation of titles

By Freddy Mayhew

Newsquest has said a “substantial loss of advertising revenue” is behind fresh editorial cuts affecting newspapers and magazines in Cumbria, including daily the Carlisle News and Star.

Three feature writer roles in Carlisle, which produces the News and Star and Cumberland News, and one arts and leisure writer on the Westmorland Gazette in Kendal are at risk of redundancy.

The National Union of Journalists said staff learned of the cuts via note pinned to a noticeboard in the newsroom.

Separately, Newsquest plans to cut four jobs from a team of six working on premium magazine titles Cumbria Life and Dumfries and Galloway Life, Carlisle Living and a business magazine.

The NUJ said the cuts will mean that most of the production work on the magazine titles will move to Newport, South Wales, where Newsquest also has an office.

The cuts fall some 20 months after the regional publisher acquired the family-run CN Group last spring for an undisclosed amount.

Newsquest has proposed to replace the four feature writer roles affected across Carlisle and Kendal with a single group-wide reporter working on features and entertainment content, according to the NUJ.

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In a statement, the NUJ Carlisle Chapel said: “These further attacks on our journalistic capacity are cuts too far. Should the redundancies go ahead, they will leave our Carlisle newsroom with just two senior journalists in full-time writing roles on the news side of the business.

“This will damage our reputation in the community and therefore our business. It will severely limit our ability to provide quality journalism, leaving our titles largely dependent on junior staff and non-journalist contributors, who provide free content, some of it [from] commercially driven entities.”

The chapel said the Carlisle office had already “suffered catastrophic cuts” having lost all of their sub-editors and four out of five photographers, as well as “most of our experienced reporting staff”.

“So for the sake of our readers, our customers, our business, and our journalism, we urge Newsquest to reconsider,” the chapel said.

“If this business is to thrive in the future, it must pursue profit through investing in journalism, not through constantly cutting costs by weeding out experienced staff, who are respected and trusted in the community we serve.”

A Newsquest spokesperson said: “We’re focused on ensuring that we have a sustainable business that can support local journalism for many years to come.

“Given the very substantial loss of advertising revenue to other digital advertising platforms, we’ve had to significantly restructure how we operate and work more efficiently across the business.

“Whilst these potential redundancies are regrettable, it means we can continue to invest in frontline reporters which are central to the continued success of our local news brands.

“In terms of CN Group, it is worth highlighting that CN was a loss making business when Newsquest acquired it – we have now put the business on a more sustainable footing.

“Newsquest also secured the pension benefits of CN Group employees, past and present, when it invested in the company.”

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