Paper cuts

Herald staff call for strike as more journalists leave papers

Sunday National and Herald on Sunday - first copies

The Herald papers are struggling under constant cuts

Journalists at The Herald & Times have voted for strike action as seven more leave the threadbare newsroom following the latest cuts instigated by parent group Newsquest.

In a 61% turnout, 85% backed a strike, while 91% supported industrial action short of striking. A meeting between management and the National Union of Journalists has been arranged for tomorrow.

Among the latest to leave are reporters David Leask and Stephen Naysmith, the latter serving The Herald and now-defunct Sunday Herald for 20 years.

The papers’ owner wants the news operation to operate with three general reporters, working seven days, with no night cover, in addition to having three reporter roles for its politics and business teams.

A recent two-part television documentary filmed in the Glasgow newsroom focused on the ongoing pressures of producing the papers with a diminishing number of staff. Editor in chief Donald Martin made frank admissions to staff about the decisions he was being asked to make by Newsquest to cut the budget. There was no input from Newsquest.

The documentary also showed how some staff appeared to be slow to adapt to new technologies in a new era of digital news when more readers are choosing to access information electronically, either through websites or social media.

News of the job cuts prompted a torrent of supportive comment and hand-wringing from other journalists who, perhaps ironically, chose to engage in a debate on Twitter rather than through the established media.

With print circulations in an irreversible decline, media groups are looking to merge as one means of cutting overheads.

Until recently there had been a prospect of the Herald titles merging with the equally cash-squeezed Scotsman newspapers which have been put up for sale by JPIMedia.

It was understood that Newsquest had outbid Reach, publisher of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, but it withdrew its interest a couple of weeks before Reach also pulled out of talks.

Former News of the World editor David Montgomery is still in talks with the JPIMedia about acquiring the Edinburgh papers along with some 200 other titles.

JPIMedia has already sold the ‘i’ newspaper to the Daily Mail & General Trust for just under £50m.

JPIMedia’s search for a buyer may have come at the wrong time for Newsquest whose US-based owner Gannett has been taken over by rival New Media Investments Group, creating the biggest provider of news in the US.

One source said the US owners thought it was not a good time to be doing deals in the UK.

UPDATE 12 December: Strike action has been averted after management agreed to withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancies.

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