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DC Thomson journalists ‘furious’ over plan to cut 300 jobs

About half of the cuts will come from the Aceville magazine publisher, acquired in 2018.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Update 22 March: DC Thomson leadership shake-up continues with new Sunday Post editor

Update 28 February: Press & Journal editor Frank O’Donnell departs DC Thomson amid newsroom ‘transformation’

Update 10 February: Some 100 journalists have been put at risk of redundancy out of 270 editorial staff across DC Thomson’s news titles in Scotland.

Of those, about 50 are expected to lose their jobs and be among the 300 total job cuts at the publisher.

A spokesperson said on Friday: “The structure being discussed is intended to push us further to collaborate more closely across titles while looking at areas of duplication as we look to work more efficiently – at every level.

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Original story 9 February: Journalists at Scottish publisher DC Thomson are said to be “furious” with the company’s plan to cut 300 jobs at its magazines and newspapers.

Staff were told on Wednesday that the company needs to fill a £10m gap in its finances, meaning some “well-loved” titles would close and “valued colleagues” would be let go.

“These moves are vital to set us up to thrive in the future and to respond to the difficult economic environment we are in,” chief executive Rebecca Miskin told staff.

Staff received further information on Thursday morning that the plan was to make 300 people redundant.

Around half of the redundancies will come from Colchester-based consumer and B2B magazine publisher Aceville, which DC Thomson acquired in 2018, where all of its print titles will be closed. It has titles in the crafts, lifestyle and food, education and business sectors.

The other five magazines set to close are: Platinum, a monthly magazine for women aged over 55 that launched in 2019, free luxury lifestyle quarterly Living, teen girls’ magazine Shout, and children’s magazines Animal Planet and Animals and You. They are all based in Dundee.

A DC Thomson spokesperson said: “We are having to make the difficult decision that 300 colleagues will be made redundant across the UK, with around half coming from the closure of titles acquired from Aceville in Colchester.

“A huge amount of work goes into the creation of our titles and despite being loved, some titles and brands are finding it harder to be profitable. By resetting DC Thomson’s media business we can focus on the communities which have potential for sustainable growth.”

The spokesperson later added: “All our flagship brands remain integral to our future.”

Although no news titles are set to close, journalist, photographer, senior management and editor roles are at risk at the Press and Journal, Courier and Sunday Post newspaper brands.

The BBC reported that Press and Journal and Evening Express editor-in-chief Frank O’Donnell is among those at risk, although the company declined to comment on individuals. O’Donnell was editor at The Scotsman but left in 2020 after 19 years with the newspaper to lead the rival Scottish daily, the P&J. [O’Donnell’s departure was later confirmed, with his last working day on 28 February.]

Regarding its news titles, a DC Thomson spokesperson said: “As part of the transformation, we are reviewing changes to the structure of our newsrooms to respond to economic pressures and better serve our local communities. Roles and responsibilities at all levels within the team are being reviewed. It would be inappropriate to comment on individual people at this time. The Scottish communities, particularly in the north and north east are core to DC Thomson and we have a number of thriving businesses in the region.”

Nick McGowan-Lowe, National Union of Journalists organiser for Scotland, said: “These are brutal cuts, and we will robustly defend the jobs of our members.

“Our members are furious both with how the company has handled these redundancies and because they are seeking to make £10m cuts across the business after paying out £24m in dividends to shareholders last year. The jobs of hard-working journalists should not be sacrificed to pay the price of extravagant shareholder profits.”

The NUJ is not recognised at DC Thomson, despite having what the union described as a “sizeable” membership among the publisher’s journalists.

Miskin’s full statement on Wednesday was as follows: “We have today announced significant changes to our company, which involve the reshaping of our media portfolio and the simplification of the underlying structure.

“These moves are vital to set us up to thrive in the future and to respond to the difficult economic environment we are in.

“Our goal is to transform into a strong media business, focused on delivering real value to the communities we serve, that can face the future with confidence, and is equipped to thrive long-term in an industry which is changing at an unparalleled pace.

“The transformation strategy already in place was addressing these fundamental industry shifts, but the need to change has been massively accelerated and magnified by the current economic crisis.  

“We will focus on specific connected and purpose driven communities which enjoy the biggest potential for deep audience engagement and long-term growth. We are strengthening and building the skills that will be vital deliver this. 

“Unfortunately, we have also had to make difficult decisions concerning those brands and activities which sit outside these growth areas. We will be announcing the closure of some well-loved titles, as well as the cessation of some commercial activities. This will mean losing some valued colleagues, something we deeply regret.”

In the year to March 2022, the latest financial results available, DC Thomson recorded profit before taxation of £7.3m but an after-tax loss of £25.8m (caused by a decline in the value of financial assets). Revenues were up by 7.3% to £174.1m, although this remained below the pre-Covid figure. The £24m dividend to shareholders was up from £22m the previous year.

DC Thomson has also recently celebrated a milestone in its digital subscriber strategy, having surpassed in October 25,000 digital subscriptions 18 months after setting a target to reach 75,000 by 2025.

Courier editor David Clegg told Press Gazette in October that when he was approached about the job, which he started in late 2019 having left his role as assistant editor at the Daily Record, “it was the first time I’ve had a conversation about wanting to do growth, and growth in a sustainable way, growth with high quality journalism invested in its community and it wasn’t a digital strategy which was really just a shield for redundancies”.

O’Donnell described the digital subscription model as “really the only genuine path to longevity, to ensuring the health of the brands”.

At the end of 2022 Press Gazette canvassed news leaders for their predictions, including DC Thomson chief executive Rebecca Miskin who suggested drastic change would be needed including by addressing "duplication or misaligned processes".

She said: "Over the last few years, we’ve been going through a massive transformational change at DC Thomson and one of our biggest challenges in the year ahead would be to think that, as economic headwinds become ever stronger, that now is the time to hunker down and wait out the storm. If anything, we should be accelerating that change.

"This time last year, under the One DC Thomson strategy, we brought all our media trading business together. Since then, we’ve focused on integrating and aligning teams and creating more opportunities across the business to work collaboratively. It might seem like a small thing but having all our people pulling in one direction has been immensely powerful. 

"Crucially, this has given us valuable insight into where growth is happening, where we’re more challenged, where we need to be investing more and what we want to prioritise – in addition to addressing duplication or misaligned processes.

"It has also given us clarity in how we build and reinforce our communities. It has shown us that the more we know about them (particularly through our investment in data and insight tech), the better we can serve them.

"Many will face challenges next year and our communities need to know that we’re there for them. We have an active role to play – it’s about having their backs when times get tough and being reliable, reputable, authentic and inspirational. It’s for us to face into the headwinds. That means hearing more from our brands not less.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
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