Will Sharing Editorial Lead To Job Losses At 'The Times'?

Anyone who has worked at News UK, or News International as it used to be called, will have read today's Press Gazette story about the future of The Times and The Sunday Times with a great deal of interest.

After two decades of sporadic redundancies at the two newspapers, one of which brought me back to freelancing after a five-year stint at The Sunday Times, we could be set for the big one. With shared editorial resources, there is likely only one direction that headcount will go in.

Not many people outside the company will remember that the only way Rupert Murdoch was allowed to own both both newspapers was to run them separately. It was Margaret Thatcher who laid down the law and, I can attest, it is dutifully maintained.

You would be amazed at how many people -- even in the media or PR -- have no idea the newsrooms are completely separate. They are housed in different offices and never discuss stories. Articles that didn't make the cut on Sunday, they presumed, would be run on the Monday -- they never were. Or the two papers could work together on a story -- it never happened.

That was until now.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has given notice that he is "minded" to allow a request from the newspapers to pool journalistic resources. He wants more detail on how this would work, but appears to have given the notion the green light.

News UK appears to be in a good mood as it prepares the clarification the Culture Secretary wants.

The company is content, but I'm not so sure the newsrooms will be. News UK is apparently suggesting the day-to-day running of the papers will not change and it will be business as usual.

One has to wonder -- if everything will carry on as usual, why make the change? The reason is simple: cost.

The papers have gone through several redundancy rounds in the past couple of decades. As the shift to digital continues, and print readership falls through the floor for all newspapers, both titles have sought to balance the books by cutting staffers.

Given that, what would anyone with half a brain suspect as the likely outcome of two newspapers sharing editorial resources?

The newspapers will not embarrass the Government by doing this straightaway, but once permission is given, I would be very surprised if we are not a year or two away from another round of redundancies.

It stands to reason that staff will be expected to work across a paper that now effectively publishes seven days per week, albeit with a different title on Sunday. Like any merger of this kind, the first casualty will be jobs.

The other thing that strikes me: While I was at the paper in the 1990s, several people left to join other papers that had switched to running a seven-day-a-week newsroom, rather than running their Sunday paper as a separate entity.

"The Express" was a case in point. They mostly returned saying it didn't quite feel right -- it meant the Sunday paper was just another daily without the benefit of a team dedicated to putting out their best stories once per week. The Sunday version just didn't stand out because it was treated like another edition in a a seven-day cycle.

Permission to share resources will almost certainly be given, and I suspect The Sunday Times will fiercely protect a team of investigative reporters to help it sit on stories until Sunday. But it is almost inevitable t will feel a little more like The Times on a Sunday rather than The Sunday Times.

As for head count, I can only see it going down. Again.

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