Some titles stop printing
Herald and Scotsman owners facing cost pressures
Paid titles are taking a hit and free papers being axed
Scotland’s newspaper owners are coming under increasing pressure to cut costs as advertising melts away and deliveries become logistically difficult under current restrictions.
JPI Media, publisher of The Scotsman, Falkirk Herald and other titles across the UK, is to stop printing 12 of its titles because of the challenges of arranging delivery and the collapse in the local advertising market.
Reporters and print newspaper distribution staff covering the virus are considered key workers, but financial constraints are putting pressure on publishers to take drastic action.
Seven paid-for newspapers, one magazine title and four free newspapers in the JPIMedia group, mostly in the south of England, will not be printed from Monday.
JPIMedia said it intended to retain journalists at these centres to run websites. Staff have been told that JPI was “carefully exploring how we can use the various government schemes available to support both the business and our staff.”
While the stoppages are said to be temporary suspensions, staff will be wary of the presses being made permanently silent and spreading to other titles in the group.
Newsquest, which publishes about 200 brands including The Herald, The National and Evening Times in Glasgow, is placing a “significant number” of its staff on enforced leave and cutting the wages of those who remain.
The company has seen “very significant declines in revenue”, particularly from advertising, as many customers cancel or put their plans on hold.
It will pay 80% of the total salary of anyone put on ‘furlough’ as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with advertising personnel mainly affected and about 10% of editorial staff.
Chief executive Henry Faure Walker added that all staff not on enforced leave would face a 15% wage cut on the amount they earn above £18,000 from 1 April, including senior managers and part-time employees.
Senior managers have been told to take two weeks of unpaid leave, although editors are largely exempt. Mr Faure Walker said his own salary would be affected.
While online traffic has been booming across all news websites, Newsquest still relies on print for 60% of its total revenues
Publication of some free titles could be suspended, but the company does not intend to suspend paid-for newspapers and websites “even if unprofitable”.
In an email to staff, he said: “As you are all aware, the coronavirus is having a profound impact on day-to-day living and business activity across the UK and across the world.
We are seeing very significant declines in our revenue, particularly from advertising– Henry Faure Walker, Newsquest
“Our first steps have been focused on keeping our employees as safe as possible, moving to remote working, social distancing and associated policies throughout the business.
“We now have to turn our attention to the economic impact on our business. Despite the sterling efforts of our teams, we are seeing very significant declines in our revenue, particularly from advertising, as many of our customers cancel or put their plans on hold.
“Standing still is therefore not an option. In order to ensure that we weather this storm, we are taking a number of decisive actions that will impact all of us.
“We do not take these actions lightly, but they will ensure that we come out strong on the other side of this, and minimise wider job losses. I appreciate that these actions are unsettling, but we believe they are necessary to cope with this extraordinary situation.
“We will get through this and with your help, come out stronger on the other side.”
Newsquest is taking part in the #ThereForYou campaign urging communities to pull together.
The Racing Post has also temporarily stopped printing while racing in Britain and Ireland remains suspended.
Editor Tom Kerr said: “Sadly, some of our team are being temporarily stood down, utilising the job retention scheme announced by the government, until the paper returns.”
It will continue to publish online.
The government said all journalists are classed as key workers if they are informing and communicating with the public on the coronavirus crisis, not just broadcasters as some initially interpreted it.