Blott Reminded of Reassurances and Reputation at Staff Meeting

The managing director of the Herald group of newspapers – comprising The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times – was yesterday reminded of his company’s commitment to high standards of editorial quality when it took ownership of the titles four years ago.

Tim Blott spent more of yesterday addressing staff ahead of a proposed budget cut of between two and three million pounds and a deadline of tomorrow for applications for voluntary redundancy.

But partly primed by questions provided by the National Union of Journalists, it was to prove a rigorous grilling that he received. And one of the question referred to a commitment made to competition authorities – at the time of the newspapers’ sale from SMG to Gannett – to maintain editorial standards.

Blott was also reminded of the reputation The Herald is said to have once enjoyed. Anne Johnstone, a leader writer/columnist is reported to have talked “movingly” about how the paper, 30 years ago, was one that every young journalist wanted to work for and enjoyed working for.

“What do you see when you look at the paper in the morning,
Tim, because I see a bloody miracle,” she asked, to much applause from her colleagues.

Blott was also said to be reluctant to provide details of voluntary redundancies, partly for fear of them being reported on this website.

The questions provided by the NUJ were as follows:

1. We currently have people suffering from stress due to working excessive hours. Could you please tell us what steps are being taken to ensure excessive hours are not being worked now? And how do you see those hours being reduced once more jobs are lost?

2. What steps are being taken by the company to prevent RSI (repetitive strain injury) as our workload goes through the roof?

3. Gannett, our parent company, told the Competition Commission that it would risk a loss of readership and reduced advertising revenues if it tried to impose a uniform approach to its titles or interfere with the autonomy of the editors of the three titles. Do you think your imposition of job cuts over the last three years threatens editorial integrity and quality? Clause 2.62

4. Gannett said, at the Competition Commission, that they had no intention of reducing Scottish coverage. Nor did it consider the transfer would result in any adverse effect on reader choice or product quality. Has that position changed?
Clause 2.49

5. The Competition Commission were led to believe that Newsquest [Gannett’s UK arm] would ensure the titles maintain their orientation and quality. Do you think the DTI should be informed that has not happened and maybe re-visit the transfer of the titles to Newsquest?