Wapping tabloids axe four staff ahead of World Cup

Wapping tabloids, The Sun and the News of the World, are axing at least four senior staff from their sports desks: Rob Shepherd, from the Sunday title, football reporters Ian McGarry and Janine Self from the daily paper, and north-west-based Sun sports photographer Mark Robinson.

The cuts come despite The Sun‘s recent marketing spend on TV ads to promote its World Cup coverage, using high-profile – and expensive – ghosted columnists Terry Venables, Harry Redknapp and Ian Wright.

Of the sports desk departures, McGarry and Shepherd were both likely to have gone to South Africa to cover the tournament, while Robinson’s absence means that the country’s biggest selling daily newspaper will now have only one sports photographer, Richard Pelham, and he’s be away at the World Cup during Wimbledon.

These are further staff changes, following the transfer from the NoW to The Sun as sports editor of Mike Dunn.

It seems likely that former News of the World football reporter Rob Beasley, reputed to be on a six-figure salary, will now take over the Chelsea beat for The Sun from McGarry, and is likely to be in the paper’s team for South Africa. It is not known what The Sun‘s plans are covering the Midlands football beat in the absence of Self, when next season will see West Brom also in the Premier League as well as Villa, Birmingham City and Wolves.

High-profile Shepherd’s redundancy comes as a shock. Only last Saturday, Daniel King, a past SJA sports news story award-winner, joined the NoW from the Mail on Sunday. It is only a year since the NoW recruited Neil Ashton from the Mail as chief football correspondent, when a spokeswoman for the paper said that no other positions on the title, such as football editor Shepherd, would be affected by the appointment.

All four redundancies are to be effective next month, although at least one of the affected News International employees is believed to be contesting the matter.

Meanwhile, SunTalk, the NI title’s online radio channel, has announced that it is extending its airtime by six hours daily during the World Cup, from 10am to 7pm throughout June and July.

As well as the regular Jon Gaunt show, Terry Christian and Ron Atkinson are to “narrowcast” for the five-week run of World Cup specials. There will also be a World Cup Final Special on Sunday July 11, and a full day of broadcasting on Monday July 12.

More on sports desk job cuts:

Bierley latest to leave Guardian sports desk

Map of UK media job cuts in 2009

McKenley and Smith to leave Standard sports desk

Sport magazine sacrificed in Observer redesign

Another 70 jobs under the axe at Express group

Rugby writer Roche is latest Sun casualty

Football at fault for loss of Setanta’s 400 jobs

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