Around 25 jobs are likely to be axed at the Bristol offices of Northcliffe Media, it was announced on Monday 1 November.
Production of the Bristol-based Western Daily Press is now set to move to Plymouth, along with that of its sister title the Western Morning News.
Northcliffe is planning to dispense with most copy-subbing, requiring reporters instead to write stories directly onto pages to predetermined lengths.
Similar changes are taking place in the East and West Midlands, South Wales and Hull, resulting in a total of around 70 posts axed.
Cuts in the Bristol production hub will account for 20 job losses, editor in chief Mike Norton told staff at two meetings on Monday.
He said another four or five jobs would also disappear, apparently as a result of moving WDP features and sports writing from Bristol to Plymouth.
It is unclear how the WDP will manage to maintain coverage across its huge editorial area. Cities such as Gloucester are 150 miles from the paper’s new Plymouth base.
The proposed changes will also see all editorial management of the Western Daily Press moving to Plymouth. Previous changes in March moved the WDP news team to Devon, but left the sub-editors and management in Bristol.
One former Western Daily Press staffer said: “This is shocking. Their incompetence is quite breathtaking. These people shouldn’t have been let anywhere near a newspaper office – it’s obvious they haven’t got a clue what they’re doing.
“In any other business they would’ve been out on their ears. How many more nails can they hammer into the poor old Western Daily Press’s coffin?”
The Western Daily Press is one of the region’s oldest and most trusted newspapers, celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2008. The Plymouth-based Western Morning News this year celebrated its own 150th anniversary. The two titles will now “share” their features content.
Editor-in-chief Alan Qualtrough said: “We have seen some synergies in the two titles and we now think we can move the process on.”
Formal consultation with the Bristol office’s NUJ chapel is under way – a legal requirement because the number of proposed job losses is larger than 19.
By law the consultation will last one month. Three representatives of the staff nominated by the NUJ chapel will discuss the proposals with management.
NUJ representatives at the papers are tabling a series of questions to Mr Norton which they hope will be answered by the end of the week.
Among the uncertainties is how Bristol will handle the production of a mass of Devon titles. The Plymouth hub is to loses responsibility for the Plymouth Herald, Torquay Herald Express, Exeter Express and Echo and Mid-Devon Gazette, and it is thought the work may move to Bristol.
Several Northcliffe staffers and ex-employees have slammed the proposals as likely to damage the ailing group’s papers. In comments to Hold the Front Page here one contributor, Wageslave Plymouth, said:
“Does it ever occur to anyone that the reason no one wants to buy Northcliffe papers is because they’re not really very good, a fact attributable almost entirely to this sort of brainless, profit-driven cheese-paring, the logical consequence of which is to shut up shop altogether?”
Another, Glad_to_be-gone, said:
“It must now be clear for all to see that Northcliffe’s senior management is deficient in virtually every possible respect. How else can you explain their jettisoning of a ‘masterplan’ which was floated for the first time little more than six months ago?
“As others have pointed out, it’s little wonder readership figures are in permanent decline and advertisers are deserting in their droves, when the quality of the product is diminishing by the second.”