Belfast Telegraph

Job fears as owner proposes cutbacks at papers

Weekly newspapers in Northern Ireland could be facing a major shake-up amid fears that a Scottish media group intends to merge and centralise many of its long-established regional titles.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that publishing giant Johnston Press, which owns around 20 weekly titles here as well as the News Letter, is proposing to group some of its papers, which lie in neighbouring geographic locations, under one editor, one deputy, two photographers and one advertising manager.

It is thought that the Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballymena and Antrim Times titles will be affected as part of the change to "editorship clusters".

The company is also understood to have invested heavily in laptops, smartphones, tablet computers and cameras to enable reporters to generate copy from home around the clock.

While the daily Belfast-based News Letter, along with The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post which are also part of the group, are thought to be exempt from recent company proposals to reduce publications, it is understood that most of the titles within the Morton Newspaper stable, which was bought over by Johnston Press in 2005, may be facing the change.

Sources have said that high-ranking staff have been asked to re-apply for their jobs and it is also thought that some employees, including those currently working in separate offices for the Lurgan Mail and Portadown Times, could relocate to the main Johnston Press production facility at Portadown.

Many staff working for the News Letter, which still has a city centre presence at the Metro building, are already based at Carn Industrial Estate.

Earlier this week publishing firm Johnston Press announced the closure of a Sunday newspaper in Donegal.

Donegal on Sunday is to cease publication next month with the loss of three full-time staff, although a number of sister titles based in the county will continue to publish.

The company has already closed a number of offices as part of cutbacks in the wider UK with remaining staff continuing to work at a central location.

Johnston Press said no one from the company was available to comment on the claims.

It is understood that Danny Cammiade, chief operating officer with the firm, is currently on leave.