Photographers have been targeted for redundancy at CN Group three months after the family-run publisher was bought by rival Newsquest.
Four out of five photographers based in the group’s main office in Carlisle are facing the axe, leaving a total of four to cover the county of Cumbria.
The cuts, set to come into effect from next week, will see one photographer based at each of the group’s offices: Carlisle, Barrow, West Cumbria and Hexham.
The local NUJ chapel has described the move as “a cut too far”.
They added: “Our NUJ chapel is increasingly concerned for the future of quality journalism that has long been the bedrock of Cumbrian Newspapers.
“By the end of this week, Newsquest will cut the number of photographers working out of our Carlisle office by 80 per cent…
“Members feel the loss of four experienced photographers in Carlisle will be a major blow to our hard-won reputation for quality.”
The CN Group publishes seven newspapers, including regional dailies the News and Star, and The Mail (formerly the North-West Evening Mail), as well as local weekly titles. It also produces four magazines.
The NUJ chapel said: “Illogically, Newsquest appears to regard all CN’s Cumbrian centres as identical.
“So Barrow, with one daily newspaper, will have the same level of photographic cover as Carlisle, which publishes a daily newspaper, a weekly, and a series of magazines.
“The work of our photographers will instead be replaced by pictures from freelances, reporters using smart phones, readers, and PR/commercial companies.
“Such content is no substitute for first-class photography by trained and seasoned staff professionals.”
The NUJ chapel is seeking further talks with management in order to find “a more positive way forward”.
A Newsquest spokesperson said: “We have bought CN Group to be able to sustain great local journalism – which is why we are investing in more frontline reporters.
“These photographer redundancies are regrettable but form part of our plans to give CN Group a sustainable future and we will still continue to employ four full-time photographers at those titles.”
Newsquest completed the takeover of the family-run regional publisher CN Group in March of this year.
At the time of the takeover the publisher was operating at a loss and employed 334 people.
The NUJ chapel said: “When Newsquest bought the company, NUJ members knew and accepted changes lay ahead.
“Every company wants a sustainable future, and we, of course, support this.
“We appreciate that Newsquest, and our industry, faces unprecedented change and challenge as we adapt to the rapidly evolving digital age.”
They added: “To Newsquest’s credit, we understand there are plans to recruit reporters in Carlisle, bolstering a team that has been drastically reduced over recent years – to around a quarter of the number CN had in Carlisle a decade ago.”
However they described the move from full-time to freelance photographers and donated content as “cut-priced” and “casualised”.
Chris Morley, NUJ northern and midlands senior organiser, said: “New corporate master Newsquest has axed staff throughout the business and is about to now scythe through newsroom photographic capacity in a move that undermines this hard-won reputation for journalistic excellence.
“NUJ members want the company to get round the table and talk about how a more positive way forward can be found that does not risk further damage to the business and even more job losses.”
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