Reach, a publisher which owns regionals newspapers as well as the Mirror and Express newspapers has said that it may have to retrench up to 420 employees as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

The company also owns smaller outfits such as the Birmingham Mail, Liverpool Echo and Manchester Evening News.

In January the publisher had said that it would cut 200 roles in a £30 million pound cost-cutting drive after advertisers failed to spend big money on the World Cup, Black Friday and the Christmas and New Year season.

On March 14, The Guardian reported that Reach told 420 of its employees including 192 journalists that they were at risk of redundancy. The company currently has 4,000 permanent employees in the UK and Ireland. To date some 80 journalists have lost their jobs as a result of retrenchment.

The National Union of Journalists national organizer, Laura Davison said, “As the company seeks to make good on its commitment to cut costs by £30m this year, it is our members who have been buffeted by every which way by the business since the new year.”

Publisher of AI Articles?

A Reach representative said, “With the current market headwinds we are facing we have had to take decisive action to review costs across the entire business including print production, energy sourcing, external suppliers as well as, regrettably, the size of some of our teams.”

Interestingly of late Reach also announced that the first articles written using artificial intelligence had been published on its local news site, but the publisher said journalists should not worry that this would mean they would be replaced by machines.

Reach’s chief executive Jim Mullen explored the possibility of the use of AI by letting a bot produce three articles last week. Despite it putting journalists on edge, Mullen said that it was not part of a hidden agenda to make big savings by cutting human staff.

“We produced our first AI content in the last 10 days but this is led by editorial. It was AI-produced but the data was obviously put together by a journalist, and whether it was good enough to publish was decided by an editor.”

“There are loads of ethics around AI and journalistic content. The way. I look at it, we produce lots of content based on actual data. It can be put together in a well-read [piece] that I think AI can do. We are trying to apply it to areas we already get traffic to allow journalists to focus on content that editors want written,” said Mullen.

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