In all the rush, we nearly missed the travails at the Belfast Telegraph. The 4,000 sq ft office space at Independent House in the Waterside in Derry is to close, just four years after it was opened. At the time, Tony O’Reilly told the press “Our investment to the North West Telegraph is showing encouraging results with sales having grown by 18% in the last 12 months. Advertising growth is up nearly a third in the same time with further growth of over 50% planned year-on-year – daily readership exceeds 30,000.” It turns out, that that was a very optimistic outlook. The paper’s management broke the news to the editorial team in Derry yesterday morning. Two of them will be kept on but will work from home. There will be one editor/reporter role and one reporter/sports role. Of the remaining three staff, two reporters will be offered the chance to re-locate to Belfast and re-train as page editors. Discussions are on-going with the photographer.
Slugger understands that if they choose not to take this, they will be offered a voluntary severance package.
But this seems likely to be the onset of further pain elsewhere in the organisation. All other departments are facing cutbacks in response to a big drop in recruitment and property advertising. There is nothing cast in stone yet, but but staff been told to expect pain. They have promised there will be no forced redundancies.
As Conall noted earlier in the week, this comes along with the gutting of the once prestigious business section of the Telegraph. Without doubt, the newspaper business is getting squeezed.
It is not clear why the paper with by far the largest circulation in Northern Ireland is being forced to cut it journalism resources so close to the bone. The Independent in England is known to leeching large amounts of revenue.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty