DC Thomson announces major round of redundancies

The news of a major round of redundancies at Scotland’s leading newspaper and magazine publishing group – Dundee-headquartered DC Thomson (DCT) – has taken the Scottish public by surprise and sent a shockwave throughout the entire UK media industry, WRITES HAMISH MACKAY in The Scottish Review

Around 300 jobs are expected to be shed from DCT’s 1,600-strong workforce including as many as 50 of the group’s 275 journalistic staff. However, one piece of good news is that the future of the group’s five newspaper titles appears to be assured. DCT currently publishes The Press and Journal and Evening Express in Aberdeen, The Courier and Evening Telegraph in Dundee and The Sunday Post in Glasgow.

Among the magazines titles reported to be facing closure are LivingPlatinumEvergreenShoutAnimals & You and Animal Planet. And also believed to be at risk of closure are the specialist craft, gardening, health and food publications which DCT acquired from Colchester-based Aceville in 2018. These publications include Let’s KnitGrow your OwnHealthy DietBusymitts and Craft Store.

A DCT spokesperson said: ‘We are having to make the difficult decision that 300 colleagues will be made redundant across the company, with around half coming from the closure of titles acquired from Colchester-based Aceville. A huge amount of work goes into the creation of our titles and despite being loved, some titles and brands are finding it harder to be profitable. By resetting DC Thomson’s media business, we can focus on the communities which have potential for sustainable growth’.

Rebecca Miskin, the chief executive of DCT’s media business, further explained: ‘We have today [9 February] announced significant changes to our company which involve the reshaping of our media portfolio and the simplification of the underlying structure. These moves are vital to set us up to thrive in the future and to respond to the difficult economic environment we are in. Our goal is to transform into a strong media business – focused on delivering real value to the communities we serve; that can face the future with confidence; and is equipped to thrive long-term in an industry which is changing at an unparalleled pace.

‘The transformation strategy already in place was addressing these fundamental industry shifts but the need to change has been massively accelerated and magnified by the current economic crisis. We will focus on specific connected and purpose-driven communities which enjoy the biggest potential for deep audience engagement and long-term growth. We are strengthening and building the skills that will be vital to deliver this.’

Miskin added: ‘Unfortunately, we have also had to make difficult decisions concerning those brands and activities which sit outside these growth areas. We will be announcing the closure of some well-loved titles, as well as the cessation of some commercial activities. This will mean losing some valued colleagues – something we deeply regret’.

The group’s most recent accounts showed that pre-tax profit, for the 12 months to the end of March 2022, fell to £7.3m against a record £338.7m in 2021, which was boosted by a sharp uplift in external investments. However, DCT had made a £180m loss in the previous year due to a fall in its investments.

The news of the job cuts has come as a serious blow to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), with Nick McGowan-Lowe, organiser of the NUJ’s office in Scotland, declaring: ‘These are brutal cuts, and we will robustly defend the jobs of our members. Our members are furious both with how the company has handled these redundancies, and because they are seeking to make £10m cuts across the business after paying out £24m in dividends to shareholders last year. The jobs of hard-working journalists should not be sacrificed to pay the price of extravagant shareholder profits’.

 Orkney journalists shine in Highlands and Islands Media Awards

A trio of journalists from Orkney shone in this year’s Highlands and Islands Media Awards, with two staff members of The Orcadian weekly newspaper – Mark Harcus and Ethan Flett – picking up major journalistic prizes, and freelance photographer Ken Amer, of Orkney Photographic, honoured with a special award.

It was a very special night to remember for Mark, who was voted both Diageo Journalist of the Year and Sports Writer of the Year, while Ethan picked up the Young Journalist of the Year prize. The awards ceremony was held in conjunction with the 34th annual Highlands and Islands Press Ball in the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, on Friday 3 February.

Judging panel chair, Gordon Fyfe, told the gathering: ‘Mark is a worthy winner of our top individual award for demonstrating ability across news, sports and feature writing. His work is consistently of a very high quality and contributes hugely to the excellent service The Orcadian delivers to its readers’.

The Business Writer of the Year, Environment and Sustainability Writer of the Year and Reporter of the Year awards, for which Mark was also shortlisted, were won by a trio of journalists from The Press and Journal daily newspaper: Peter Ranscombe, Donna MacAllister and Stuart Findlay, respectively.

Long-serving photographer Ken Amer had made it a memorable hat-trick for Orkney by being presented with a Special Recognition Award for his contribution to journalism over 37 years.

The Highlands and Islands Press Ball is the only event that brings together media industry colleagues from across a huge and dispersed region. Nearly 250 media representatives, politicians and heads of public and private organisations attended the event, which attracted journalists from Shetland to Argyll and from Moray to the Outer Hebrides – serving print, broadcast and online media.

The Newspaper of the Year award was won by the Skye-based West Highland Free Press weekly while Inverness-based freelance Paul Campbell was voted Photographer of the Year. And the Barron Trophy for Lifetime Achievement was presented to Nairn-based Donald Wilson who recently retired from his reporting role with Highland News and Media.

Principal sponsor of the evening was Diageo, with additional support from Statkraft, Chivas Brothers, the National Union of Journalists, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Kane Partnership, Highland Tourism and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

The full list of award winners is:

Newspaper of the Year
Winner: West Highland Free Press

Diageo Journalist of the Year
Winner: Mark Harcus, The Orcadian

Reporter of the Year (Jim Love Memorial Trophy)
Winner: Stuart Findlay, The Press and Journal

Feature Writer of the Year
Winner: Andrew Henderson, Highland News and Media

Community Newspaper of the Year
Winner: Chatterbox, Black Isle

Barron Trophy for Lifetime Achievement
Donald Wilson, Nairn

Special Recognition Award
Ken Amer, Orkney

Environment and Sustainability (Highland Tourism Award)
Winner: Donna MacAllister, The Press and Journal

Business Writer of the Year

Winner: Peter Ranscombe, The Press and Journal

Gaelic Writer of the Year (Bòrd na Gàidhlig Award)
Winner: Angus Peter Campbell, West Highland Free Press

Young Reporter of the Year (Alex Main Trophy)
Winner: Ethan Flett, The Orcadian

Sports Writer of the Year
Winner: Mark Harcus, The Orcadian

Photographer of the Year
Winner: Paul Campbell, freelance, Inverness

 News UK proposes seven-day operation for two Scottish titles

Scotland’s Daily Business website is reporting that News UK is proposing to turn The Times Scotland and The Sunday Times Scotland into a single seven-day operation in a move that could conceivably lead to the loss of journalistic jobs.

Daily Business explains: ‘The Times and Sunday Times newsrooms in London currently share certain desks, including travel, property and sport, and have journalists working across both titles. The merging of operations followed a decision in February last year by the then-UK Government Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, to release News UK from its legal requirement, in place since Rupert Murdoch acquired the titles in 1981, to keep The Times and Sunday Times as distinct newsrooms.

‘However, the titles in Scotland have retained separate staffing. There is speculation that the two editors – Magnus Llewellin at The Times Scotland and Jason Allardyce at the Sunday title will have to compete for the top role in the new set-up. Llewellin joined The Times Scotland as Scottish editor from The Herald in May 2016, while Allardyce has led The Sunday Times Scotland since 2012.’

A spokesperson for Times Media said: ‘We are currently talking to The Times Scotland and The Sunday Times Scotland editorial teams about creating a seven-day operation – producing a richer and more valuable package for subscribers and allowing the best of journalism within the team to be published at the most appropriate moments across the week for our readers and subscribers’.

Brian Hossack hired for major new role at Wyvex Media

Brian Hossack, the award-winning editor of the Greenock Telegraph, is to become head of online content at Oban-headquartered independent publishers Wyvex Media, whose portfolio includes five weekly newspaper titles in the west of Scotland: The Oban TimesLochaber TimesArgyllshire AdvertiserCampbeltown Courier and The Arran Banner. Wyvex also owns a number of magazines including its flagship publication Scottish Field.Brian, who will take up his new post after Easter, writes on LinkedIn: ‘After 10 years, it is time for a new challenge. I have had an amazing time leading one of the most dedicated and committed newsrooms anywhere in this industry. I am fortunate that there have been many more highs than lows and I would like to think as a team we have represented Inverclyde (and more latterly Largs) to the very best of our abilities’.

Alister Bennett, managing director of Wyvex Media, said: ‘We are delighted that Brian is joining us as we continue to transform our business. As a former Newsquest Editor of the Year, Brian’s record speaks for itself. He understands local news and what it means for our communities. His skills, enthusiasm and work ethic have seen him provide outstanding content across all platforms for the communities in which he operates and we are excited to work with him’.

Bennett points out that the appointment marks another significant step in transforming Wyvex Media from a mainly print-based business into a more digitally-focused publisher, explaining: ‘Our aim is to consolidate and strengthen our position as the major provider of digital content in the west coast of Scotland and to grow the online presence of our magazines, including our flagship title Scottish Field. We are investing heavily in both systems and people to ensure we achieve that goal’.

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Caithness-born Hamish Mackay is now in his 57th year as an occasional/sometimes regular contributor to the UK’s exceedingly diverse media market

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