Barely two years after Jason Cowley, the editor of the New Statesman, grandly announced he had ambitions to triple his magazine’s circulation to 100,000 by engaging an overseas readership — with a focus on the US, Germany and France — his staff have been summoned to two online briefings to be told another round of redundancies is on the way.
Stephen Bush, one of the magazine’s former writers who now works for the Financial Times, described the move as a “colossal failure of leadership” and added that if the NS leadership wanted to make savings, “the first place they should look is the mirror.”
Bush, who joined the New Statesman from the Daily Telegraph in 2015, left the magazine early last year to be the FT’s associate editor. He said he had worked hard with others to build the “fundamentals” for the magazine to succeed, but what had happened since amounted to “an act of vandalism and incompetence.”
Founded by the Fabian Society more than 100 years ago, the company – now owned by Mike Danson, founder of the London-listed market research company GlobalData – has been accused by representatives of the fledgling NS and NSMG Union of making no attempt to alert them to what they were going to say to the staff, even though they have been involved in discussions with management over recognition for months. After Danson took over, the magazine said it would no longer recognise the National Union of Journalists.
The last circulation figures for the magazine claims it has around 40,000 print readers – a long way down from its peak of 93,000 in the mid-1960s – and 400,000 registered users.
Bush made the point that Labour’s lead in the polls meant these should be the best of times for the magazine. Certainly others in the same space, such as The New European and Byline Times, are charging ahead. TNE’s subscriptions are up 80% year on year, within touching distance of the once-mighty Statesman.
Another ex-NS staffer said morale at the title was at rock bottom, adding: “It’s all very sad. Everyone is totally miserable.”