Times to cut 20 editorial roles, but won’t merge with Sunday Times

By | Published on Tuesday 11 June 2013

The Times

The Times is cutting 20 editorial roles after the paper’s acting editor John Witherow told his staff “the era of being subsidised is coming to an end”. The cutting of 20 journalists, 10% of the London paper’s editorial team, comes as the broadsheet’s owners, News International, look to control the outgoings of the loss-making title.

Traditionally The Times has been subsidised by its sister paper The Sun, following a principle applied across the Murdoch-controlled News Corp empire, where some of the profits from more lucrative ventures were used to subsidise prestigious but less commercially viable titles or projects. But News Corp is in the process of being split into two companies, with the less secure newspaper and publishing side of the operation being separated from the much more profitable TV and movie business.

According to the Times itself, Witherow said: “For several years now, Times Newspapers has been losing money. The company has tolerated this because it could use profits from elsewhere in News Corp to pay for our papers and because the proprietor has a passion for newspapers. I fear that era of being subsidised is coming to an end. The separation of the two companies means that the newspapers will form a bigger and more exposed element in the new News Corp”.

But Witherow told his staff that, while they were facing 20 compulsory redundancies, there was currently no plan to merge the editorial teams of the daily and Sunday editions of the Times.

Most newspaper groups in the UK are quietly integrating the operations of their daily and equivalent Sunday titles, even though Sunday papers are arguably a different beast editorially speaking (reporting on the week just gone, rather than the last 24 hours). As profits have slumped, it’s an obvious economy, usually beginning with back-office operations before moving to editorial.

The shutting down of News Of The World in disgrace and resulting launch of the Sun On Sunday enabled News International to set that title up as a cheaper-to-run seven day operation much quicker than anyone originally anticipated.

The move of former Sunday Times editor Witherow into the acting editor role on the main Times was seen by many as a forerunner of a merger there too, even though agreements dating back to Murdoch’s 1981 acquisition of the title make such integration harder to achieve. But, said Witherow yesterday, there were commercial as well as editorial reasons to keep the two London Times papers separate. Though the merger proposition would continue to be reviewed from time to time.

The latest in a number of job cuts in recent years, it’s not clear what impact the latest redundancies will have on the Times’ output.