The sports department at the Guardian Media Group has moved a step closer to “integration” by merging the jobs of its boxing, golf and athletics correspondents across The Guardian, Observer and website guardian.co.uk.
Kevin Mitchell will now cover boxing across all three “platforms”, Lawrence Donegan golf and Anna Kessel athletics.
The assignments mirror the recent appointment as group chief sports writer of Paul Hayward, and will see each correspondent expected to file live from events midway through the day for the website as well as at more “conventional” deadline times for the newspapers.
Kessel’s is a new appointment, being confirmed in a role she started working in for the Observer last year. It means that Richard Lewis, who has freelanced for The Guardian for the past two summers, is no longer being used.
Mitchell, until recently, held a leading writing role with the Observer, and since Hayward’s arrival has been designated as chief sports writer of Observer Sport Monthly.
The appointment of former pop musician Donegan – he still receives royalties for his recording of Young at Heart with the Bluebells – means that freelancers such as Bill Elliott, a long-time contributor on golf for The Observer, are likely to have fewer working opportunities.
Steven Downes, the SJA’s secretary, responded to the news with caution. “Notionally, what you have here are at least six jobs, perhaps nine working opportunities in total, being reduced down to three. It is not a surprise, because it is the sort of thing we have seen coming for a while, but it is no less unwelcome.
“Two of the writers involved are terrific operators whose work is well-known and respected. We wish them all the best in this new arrangement.
“Now, their management will expect them to be available to file 24/7. It is the same argument that we have heard before against reporters working for a seven-day operation newspaper, except now with internet knobs on: with more outlets to service, there’s less time to research, interview and assess a story. It threatens the quality of the journalism produced.”
The Guardian news comes soon after reports from the Telegraph group where sports production staff – what used to be called “subs” – have been “invited” by their management to work on their day off by filing a bylined football match report for no payment beyond expenses, thus saving the company the expense of paying match fees to freelancers.
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