An editor has spoken up for outsourced subbing as a way of securing the future of his family-owned daily newspaper.
Oldham Evening Chronicle editor David Whaley (pictured) told the Society of Editors conference in Carlisle that nine sub-editors with combined experience of 250 years at the paper were made redundant.
He said the changes were made as the publisher upgraded its computer systems when it adopted technology from Wolverhampton-based PCS and outsourced both sub-editing and advertising production.
The paper is now subbed and laid out at Newsquest’s production hub in Newport, Wales.
Whaley said: “Small is beautiful but it isn’t when you have to make some savings and there aren’t any economies of scale.” He added that the title had “desperately needed a new computer system” and that the change was a matter of “survival”.
He said: “We lost nine experienced and senior staff in the changes. That was heart-breaking and I hated every minute of it, but it had to be done.”
He said that 17 journalists are left (not including the outsourced subs) and that the central picture desk was also cut, with photographers now working purely on the road. Overall he said of the changes: “It’s worked”.
Asked by session moderator Ray Snoddy whether the outsourced subbing hub had led to “crass mistakes”, he said: “We had a story written by a reporter, read by the news editor, picked up by the chief sub, given to the sub editor who puts the proof on my desk and it still has eight literals. Why are we blaming the subs in Newport when we got it wrong before?
“Let’s get it right first time and get it in.”
Overall, he said the Chronicle has gone down from 250 to 40 people.
“It has been collaboration by necessity. We are now looking at launching new magazine products and other things under our trusted brand.”
Outlining the challenges the title faces, he said: “Last week we ran a story with 20,000 hits on the website, there was no rise in the print sale.
“We need to find a funding model that is sustainable because the cash cows of cars, jobs and homes have long-since gone. If we lost public notices to the web as well the balance sheet is scary.”
He said that 90 per cent of his title’s revenue comes from print, but circulation is plunging because 18 to 25-year-olds want to get their news from mobile phones.
In the first half of this year sales of the Oldham Evening Chronicle fell 14 per cent year on year to an average of 7,343 according to ABC.
Asked what the outlook was for the title if a new funding model can’t be found, he said: “In Oldham we’ve had an evening newspaper for 157 years. I’d like to think we play a big part in democracy.
“With the pressures on the pension fund deficit and other things one day we could walk in and the door won’t open, that’s the reality.”