A sports editor who has spent 18 years at the same Gloucestershire newspaper is among a number of redundancies expected at Newsquest this month.
Ash Loveridge has reported on League Two outfit Forest Green for almost two decades at the Stroud News and Journal, charting their progress from non-league to a Wembley play-off final victory into the EFL in 2017.
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He was put on furlough in March and has now entered redundancy consultation as Newsquest responds to “heavy declines” in advertising revenue since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Loveridge said: “I’m gutted to be leaving a job which has been my life. I’ve loved every minute and forged some incredible sporting friendships over the years.”
Newsquest has said it plans to cut a small number of editorial roles but that most of the jobs lost will be in advertising sales.
“We believe we can maintain the vast majority of journalist jobs and sustain frontline reporter resource in particular,” a spokesperson said.
Explaining why the cuts are necessary, they said: “Like many other local media groups, our business has been hit hard by Covid-19.
“Although, we have seen phenomenal growth in online audiences to our websites as people seek out trusted local news, we have experienced heavy declines in our advertising revenues.”
Loveridge, who has also been sports editor at sister papers the Gloucestershire Gazette and Wilts and Glos Standard for the past two years, said he was “bowled over” by the response after he announced his departure on social media.
He has received more than 800 messages on Facebook and Twitter in the past week.
Former Gloucestershire and England cricketer Jack Russell said he was “gutted” and couldn’t “believe it”.
Meanwhile one-time BBC 5 Live broadcaster and former England rugby and Gloucestershire batsman Alastair Hignell described the decision to axe him as a “travesty”, adding that Loveridge was a “valued and valuable component in the life and fabric of Stroud”.
Loveridge started his journalism career at the Stroud Mercury before a stint at The Citizen, now Gloucestershire Live. He has also produced content for the BBC, Sky and the Football League Paper.
In March Newsquest put a “significant number” of staff on furlough. These were mainly in advertising, although about 10% of 650 editorial roles were among those put on hold.
All staff not on forced leave received a 15% pay cut on the amount they earned above £18,000. The publisher is now preparing to gradually move them back towards their normal pay by 1 October.