Being made redundant is devastating. Then you move on…

Seven years have passed since I was shown the door. To mark the occasion, I have just read a book by a journalist who was made redundant by the same newspaper group.

Here is how the first of these blogs began at the end of May 2015…

“Well, that was one of the strangest days in my working life. After 27 years in the one newspaper office, that was it. Time to go, move on. At least I had company. There were ten of us leaving, or was it 11? I forget now. Gave a speech, cried and went to the pub: some of these things are what you expect of a journalist, some perhaps not…”

Roger Lytollis went through it all at the Cumberland News group in Carlisle. This family business was taken over by my old employers. Newspaper people will know this does not necessarily lead to a happy outcome.

Roger’s book is called Panic As Man Burns Crumpets, and it is subtitled The Vanishing World of the Local Journalist.

It is funny, moving and sad, as both me and Melvyn Bragg believe, although only Melvyn’s words appear on the cover.

Roger was inspired, he has said, by This Is Going To Hurt, Adam Kay’s rollercoaster diary about being a junior doctor (as recently televised for BBC1). In a similar vein, although with less blood, he recalls his time as a feature writer, sharing many good anecdotes while also exposing his own frailties: shyness, periods of depression, and a chaotic way of messing up occasionally.

There are many amusing memories, typified by the chapter headed “Nude Reporter Shares His Tip”: Roger strips off to swim with a naturist club at Wigton Baths, has an embarrassing picture taken, and somehow marks the occasion by getting his car stuck in a muddy field at the top of a dead-end country lane.

That never happened to me, but Roger captures perfectly the life of a features writer. And he summons up that disappearing inky work, the companionship, the teasing, the fun, the sparring and the witty moaning, and the endless rush of stories, all those words passing in a blur.

The end when it comes is described with deadening familiarity for those of us who’ve been through it (and what a swelling gang we are). Roger is told more than once that getting rid of journalists is the best way “to invest in quality journalism for years to come”, and we all know how well that’s working out.

I don’t have anything further to say about my old newspaper as it’s no longer my world. I hear things and know those who remain still work hard for lowish pay. Young journalists are taken on, which is good, although as Roger points out, some papers now are only staffed by inexperienced/cheaper reporters.

Being made redundant by Newsquest was a shock to Roger and me, but at least Roger turned his collapsed career into a book. As for me, I was devastated at the time, less so now.

Looking back, I wonder about those 27 years. Was that a sensible amount of time to stay in one place as as an editor, designer, writer, columnist, letters editor and more besides? Nope, but I loved that job until it no longer loved me.

Since leaving, I have lectured in journalism at two universities (rewarding but it dried up), had two spells with the Press Association, including three days a week now on the digital newswire, a non-stop sort of job. Oh, and I worked for the census in my only non-journalism job since forever.

Best fun of all, I have written more than 60 freelance features for the Yorkshire Post, starting with York panto dame Berwick Kaler talking about the Railway Children (in the event, he didn’t make the show).

After a lifetime in journalism (note to self: don’t do that again), I can say that interviewing people for a decent feature is the best part.

I used to remind students, “It’s not about you ­– it’s about them.”  True up to a point, but it is about you in a quiet way; what you bring, the skills you use to capture a person and their life and honour them with your words. All after a chat for perhaps an hour, with a digital recorder on the table between you, and don’t go embarrassing me by mentioning shorthand.


And, yes, I am still writing fiction, two novels on the go. I just need to find a new agent or another willing publisher.

As for being made redundant, every negative brings unexpected positives. I wouldn’t have written all those lovely features if I’d stayed put. Or bashed out hundreds of blogs for my own amusement, and occasionally to please/irritate others.

I plan to semi-retire at Christmas but will keep writing for as long as they’ll have me. And if they won’t, I will keep writing anyway. For there will always be words. As my Twitter profile puts it: “Usually to be found wrestling with words. Mostly the words win.” Heavens, who wrote that rubbish?

Let’s give the last word on redundancy to Roger. Here’s how he ends his book: “I’d been dumped. Get over it. Move on.”


  1. Great piece Julian, the way Newsquest treated people was appalling. Look at the state of the Press now! It was such a good local paper for years. I was made redundant three times in my twenties (in publishing) and that shock and rejection never really leaves you. All the best, Antonia

  2. It’s hard to believe that seven years have past. Although not at the time, I now view it all as a positive event – the period not working improved my perspective of life in positive ways (I also got a lot of DIY done), and I have been lucky to find myself down the road in a job that is rewarding. Hope you enjoy your semi-retirment!

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