A further nail in the coffin of mainstream journalism in south-east London – the News Shopper’s entire newsroom has been put on notice of redundancy by the newspaper’s owner, Newsquest, according to its staff.
The paper was moved to Sutton last year to share a newsroom with its sister publication, the South London Guardian series. Last month, the Shopper’s Greenwich edition was merged with the neighbouring Lewisham paper. The Gravesend edition was also merged with its Dartford counterpart.
Now all the Sutton-based staff – bar the web editor and managing editor – have been put on notice of redundancy. Four reporters, two content editors, three sub-editors, an editorial assistant and the deputy managing editor will lose their jobs by mid-October.
This will leave just 12 reporters and four content editors to produce 11 South London Guardian papers, four News Shopper editions and their websites, the National Union of Journalists says, including news, sport and leisure coverage.
The cuts come despite Newsquest making £70m profit last year. The News Shopper is one of its most successful titles on the web, although the strain of cuts is starting to show with simple mistakes showing in news stories and, more damagingly, in the printed papers.
Staff are already being balloted for strike action over inadequate staffing, increased workloads and “reduced quality of newspapers”. Reporters walked out last year in protest at a previous round of cuts and the move to Sutton.
There are also no longer any staff photographers at the News Shopper – and Newsquest has ended its contract with the Deadlinepix agency to supply photography, leaving reporters and readers to supply pictures.
Last week’s Greenwich & Lewisham paper included an appeal from Shopper editor Andy Parkes for readers to send in their news and photos. “Your, our loyal readers, are the best eyes and ears we have… the News Shopper relies upon its loyal readership more today than ever before.”
Meanwhile, over at the Shopper’s rival in Greenwich & Lewisham, the South London Press and Mercury, times also aren’t good. South Bank community website SE1.co.uk has complained that the SLP is lifting copy from its reports in today’s issue – a sure-fire sign of a paper that’s understaffed.
— London SE1 Community Website (@se1) September 9, 2016
It’s hard to see things getting any better for journalism in south-east London – particularly where the traditional titles are concerned. Greenwich suffers the particular problem of the council taking ad revenue to fund its vanity publications, but the diversion of its public notices to the Mercury does not appear to have resulted in any improved coverage.
It will probably take a new entrant to shake things up – but who would have the cash to do it?