Protests grow against Evening Post job cuts and axing of Venue magazine

April 18, 2012

From Bristol 24-7 

A protest against swinging job cuts at the Bristol Evening Post took place in the city centre this week as staff at the paper marked the paper’s 80th anniversary at an exhibition.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) were outside the Galleries shopping centre where the low-key exhibition is taking place.

Last Friday it emerged up to 20 staff at the paper will be made redundant in the latest of a series of job cuts at the struggling paper.

The Saturday edition of the paper will be axed, while Venue magazine will be downgraded to a digital-only publication – ending the year-long experiment of combining it with the monthly giveaway Folio magazine.

A journalist at the Post, who did not want to be named, told Bristol24-7 there was a feeling of “resignation” among staff about the latest round of redundancies – the third since 2006. While most daily newspapers have struggled in recent years due to competition from the internet and an advertising slowdown, the Post's circulation has plummeted far faster than the industry average.

The NUJ said it would be putting forward plans to editor Mike Norton over the coming weeks, during the consultation period with staff, to mitigate the losses.

However, union leaders pointed out the irony that the anniversary of the creation of a newspaper, created by the people of Bristol in defiance of the takeover of the city’s media by the London-based Northcliffe empire, was being marked in the shadow of the same company taking another axe to staff numbers.

Paul Breeden, chair of the Bristol branch of the NUJ, told Bristol24-7 it was clear “important papers like the Post are not safe in Northcliffe’s hands”.

“We can protest and let people know about this. It’s heartening to know that so many people in Bristol are aware of the issues and the hollowing out of the paper’s newsroom,” he said.

“It’s the worst birthday present imaginable and no more than we expect from Northcliffe and they are on very dodgy ground by staging this celebration.

“There is a future for the paper. You can see and hear that people want their city properly reported. The companies in charge of the local press are making money – the company that published the Evening Post made £1.5m profit in 2012 – but that’s not enough for their shareholders.

“It’s ironic that this birthday celebrates how the people of Bristol stood up to [Northcliffe owners] the Rothermere family in the 1930s. Perhaps now we can see a similar movement taking place.”

Readers of the Evening Post, which will be renamed The Post in recognition of the paper move to a morning title in 2009, were out in support of the protest yesterday.

Nicholas Pain told Bristol24-7 he was “shocked” when he heard that the paper would lose its Saturday edition.

“The changes are not right. Why are they doing this? It’s the paper for Bristol and it shouldn’t change at all,” he said.

Photographers at the paper are to bear the brunt of the changes announced last week, with those on staff being re-hired on a freelance basis. A month-long consultation with staff has begun, but it is still unclear where the remaining changes will take place.

Bristol News and Media publisher Alan Renwick said in a statement last Friday: “We have undertaken an exhaustive review of our portfolio and the changing needs of readers and advertisers in our market.

“These planned changes give us a more focused and flexible set of publications which are much more closely aligned to our customers and give us a better platform for future growth.”

Northcliffe has also axed its regional monthly business magazine South West Business after it failed to match established rival publication South West Business Insider. The Temple Way print works, where Northcliffe produced its West publications, has also been closed down. The Post is now printed in Oxfordshire.

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