Supplements picture editor Sacha Lehrfreund and Telegraph Features Deputy Picture Editor Mike Rigby have been told that they are to be made redundant. The news means that five out of the seven most experienced picture editors at the Telegraph titles are now set to leave, with more redundancies still expected.
Sunday Telegraph picture editor Nigel Skelsey will leave this week, and is to be replaced by his deputy, Bet Lynch. Lynch, who is well respected by photographers, is understood to have the support of Sunday Telegraph editor Patience Wheatcroft who is resisting management pressure to merge the editorial departments of the daily and Sunday titles.
EPUK understands that incoming Executive Editor (Pictures) Stuart Nicol will take up his new role on the 16th October having now agreed his release from PA.
In the interim, outgoing Telegraph picture editor Bod Bodman has negotiated a ‘loyalty bonus’ which insiders believe to be “in five figures”. The bonus will mean that Bodman will remain in place until Stuart Nicol arrives next month.
“This is nothing short of a coup”
One insider told EPUK: “It was clear to everyone that as soon it was announced that Nicol was to be appointed over Bob Bodman that Bob would be resigning, and probably [Peter] Floyd and others too. Management must have known this too. This is really nothing short of a coup.”
Nicol told EPUK: “I would have loved to have worked with Bob Bodman, but its his decision to go”
“I’m not planning to make any changes to the existing photographers”, he told EPUK. “There are some really talented people there. My role is to consolidate the existing picture desk operations”.
Neither of the Telegraph titles now has staff photographers, with the Daily Telegraph having six contract photographers. The Sunday Telegraph, who let go their two contract photographers last year, now rely entirely on freelances.
Digital, web and print editions
Picture desk insiders have also questioned the new working schedules at Victoria, which will see the “visual content” desk working for 20 hours a day, with staff working ten hour shifts. The integration of the digital editions also creates two new deadlines each working day.
“Everything is being designed around the 4pm electronic edition, but we don’t know how successful that’s going to be, how long it’ll last, or how much revenue it’ll pull in. Whereas, we do happen to know that we’re pretty good at putting a newspaper together. We’ve been doing that for a while” said one insider.
Unofficial figures suggest that in the first week of running, an average of just 120 people a day accessed the “download-and-print” 4pm edition.
Figures provided by the Telegraph show that the web audience is almost entirely separate from the print audience, with just a 13% overlap between the two groups. The most recent ABC figures show average daily print sales of 900,000 a day and 5.6 million unique users per month on the website.
Morale at “rock bottom”
Meanwhile, morale at the Telegraph titles is now described as “rock bottom” by insiders, with some staff members reported to have being given verbal warnings from management for “negativity”.
While it is difficult at this stage to gauge the success of the newroom transformation, the omens don’t bode well. A major systems crash at the ‘state of the art’ Victoria last week would have paralysed production had not duplicate systems still been running at Canary Wharf.
“This is a cock up, pure and simple.” said one experienced journalist. “Moving office brings problems. Launching an electronic edition brings problems. Launching huge redundancies causes problems. Redesigning the role of each department brings problems. To do any one of these things in isolation is pretty brave. To do them all, makes [Telegraph editorial managing director] Will Lewis look absolutely crazy.”
Another Telegraph insider had a different viewpoint: “If Lewis pulls this off, it’ll be the making of him and [Telegraph chief executive] Murdoch MacLennan. But if he fails, he’ll be yesterday’s man, but MacLennan will be able to avoid the worst of the fallout.”
“Highly secretive and deceitful”
The move to Victoria and the redundancy process has been branded “highly secretive” and “deceitful” by the NUJ.
“This is the Barclays’ Wapping and they’ve done to the sub editors and journalists what Murdoch did to the printworkers.” one Telegraph staffer told EPUK. “It’s a case of, we’re moving, we’re changing, and you only get in the new building if you agree to the new terms”
The newsroom at Victoria has been closely guarded, with only full time staff who are not facing redundancy being allowed in. Under existing legislation, since the company is seeking more than 100 redundancies, there is a three-month consultation process before any decisions are made. However, those who have been told that their jobs may be under threat are not being allowed into the Victoria facility.
“Tearing the heart out of the paper”
“There’s an embargo on people who are being targeted for redundancy going to Victoria and that’s totally unacceptable if the consultation process is meant to be genuine” Barry Fitzpatrick, the NUJ’s national newspapers organiser told MediaGuardian.
The NUJ is expected to inform Telegraph management of an intended strike ballot on Monday, after fears over the 133 compulsary redundancies and changes to staff contracts. A recent vote at the Telegraph’s NUJ chapel over whether to hold a strike ballot was passed unanimously.
“They are tearing the heart out of this paper and each day that goes by they are doing it more and more,” said John Carey, father of the Telegraph chapel.
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