Thursday 7pm update: It was confirmed this evening that Bob Bodman, the veteran Telegraph picture editor, his deputy Peter Floyd and Sunday Telegraph picture editor Nigel Skelsey are to leave the titles. The news comes as the appointment of Stuart Nicol as picture editor in chief at the Telegraph Group was announced.

Telegraph features picture editor Mike Spillard, who was yesterday reported to have resigned, is now understood to be staying with the Telegraph.

The simultaneous loss of three of the most experienced newspaper picture editors in the UK has been described as “devastating” by a senior Telegraph insider.

While EPUK has been told that Nicol is currently contractually unable to take up the post until March 2007, Nicol today denied this, saying that he expects to be at the Telegraph “no longer than six weeks from now”

Nicol told EPUK that there was absolutely no connection between his arrival and the three departures.

“Peter Floyd had already asked to leave before my appointment, and Nigel Skelsley, a friend of mine, has asked to go for his own personal reasons.”

The loss of the senior picture desk staff, plus the delayed appointment of Nicol, a former picture editor of the Daily Record who left to become Group Picture Editor for PA in January, has come at the worst possible time, amid the launch of an electronic edition of the daily title, and an imminent move from Canary Wharf to Victoria.

Conservative, with and without a capital ‘C’

The last few months have seen enormous changes for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, two of the last British broadsheet newspapers, which are traditionally seen as conservative – both with and without a capital ‘C’.

At the very top, a major power struggle has been taking place between chief executive Murdoch MacLennan and the two editors of the daily and Sunday papers, over who could hire and fire staff. It was reported today that the editors have thwarted plan to move the staff appointments under the control of Will Lewis.

The appointment of Nicol, whose career began as a staff photographer at the Evening Standard, and who has previously worked at the Sunday Times, the European and Daily Mirror, has been widely seen as part of the same wider attempt to shift editorial control to management.

The layout of the Victoria newsroom, with separate desks lining up to a central “hub”, had led to fears among staff that senior management were planning to cut costs by moving the titles onto ‘seven day working’, whereby the daily and Sunday titles share the same desks and staff. The move would be seen as potentially disastrous for the integrity of the titles, according to insiders.

The shift to Victoria has already led to the integration of “print” and “digital” sections, and the replacement of sub-editors with “production journalists” who write and edit their own work. The move has also led to around 130 job losses out of a total workforce of around 1000.

Change in priorities from print to web

The launch last week of Telegraph pm, a free ten page PDF of the day’s news aimed at office workers to print off and read on the way home, has led to accusations that the needs of the electronic edition are shaping the way the picture desk is run.

Up until now, the Daily Telegraph has had separate picture desks for the Features and City departments, with the main picture desk looking after news and sport. However, it was announced that after the move to Victoria, the three desks are to merge, with four of the 54 expected editorial redundancies being from the photographic department. EPUK understands that the photographers will now be “pooled” between the department, unlike at present where separate photographers are used for news, features, City and sport.

At Victoria, the title of “picture editor” is to be replaced by “visual content editor”, responsible for both photographs and video clips on the website, the latter of which is currently provided under a contract with ITN. Editorial staff have seen the changes as both a downgrading in the role of the picture editor, as well as staff photographers being made to shoot moving images in addition to stills. A similar move had already been introduced at PA under the control of Stuart Nicol.

There is also unease that the insistence on having photographs in the online editions, but without additional budgets being made to pay photographers for the additional use will lead to picture editors being told not to use photographers who have not signed away their rights to internet use. The Telegraph Group last month introduced a (legally unenforceable) clause at the foot of their remittance slips claiming that the freelance had already granted them these rights for no extra payment.

The integration of digital and print content is also expected to create substantial difficulties as it creates two new deadlines of 8am and 4pm for digital content in additional to the normal print deadlines.

One insider described the launch of Telegraph pm and the move to Victoria as “the worst management practice I’ve ever seen” and staff had been left in the dark about the new plans, which had been formulated with little consulation with the editors.

Nicol told EPUK: “I am very much looking forward to my move to the Telegraph Group and to working with some of the very talented photographers there”