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Ray Snoddy leaves The Times as fears rise over job cuts

LONDON - Ray Snoddy, the media editor of The Times, is the latest high-profile journalist to leave the paper as the focus increases on its compact edition, with fears that editorial job cuts could run as high as 30 as it seeks to slash spiralling costs.

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Snoddy leaves the paper, which he joined from the Financial Times, after seven years although he will continue to write a column in the paper's media pages and he will continue to write for Marketing magazine.

Snoddy began his career on local newspapers and first joined The Times in 1971. He joined the FT in 1981 as assistant news editor, becoming IT and broadcasting correspondent and then later the paper's media correspondent.

When he left the FT for the job at The Times the industry joke was: "Snoddy?" they gasped. "Leaving the FT? But that's like God leaving Heaven!"

Snoddy and the FT defined media reporting for most of the 1990s and every trade press journalist and national paper looked to Snoddy when opening the paper in case the man had scooped them again.

One of his finest hours was the summer of 1991 when he basically ran all the media journalists' agenda. For the first time, the ITV licences were to be awarded in a simple cash auction in which the highest bidder would win. The bids were submitted to the Independent Television Commission in a sealed envelope and secrecy on the sum would be paramount. Until Snoddy got his teeth into the business.

"I'd been out at lunch with a contact and at the end of the meal he said, almost as an afterthought: 'You know Scottish Television bid less than a million?'," Snoddy recalled in a PR Week interview. "I ran back to the office, got on the phone and stood the story up for the next morning. STV's share price shot up."

Times staff are openly talking about a mass cull among news desk and production staff as Times Newspapers looks to reduce its headcount to offset the high cost of producing a broadsheet and a tabloid newspaper.

Industry figures have put the cost of producing the two loss-making papers as high as £15m with losses running as high as £1m a week according to some reports.

On Friday, high-profile foreign correspondent Christopher Walker took voluntary redundancy. A report in the Evening Standard today says that at least 12 could go, but the figure could be closer to 20.

Also leaving, in what is being called "assisted departure" with the "redundancy" word being banned by management, is assistant business editor Russell Hotten.

George Brock, managing editor at The Times who is overseeing the cuts, has told staff that the process will take at least until the end of next week.

One senior insider told Brand Republic that it was expected more would go as the focus increasingly turned to the compact edition.

On Friday, The Times announced it was to roll out the compact nationwide, but said it remained 100% committed to its broadsheet edition as well as the tabloid version.

News of the cuts come as last Friday's newspaper ABC figures show that The Times is going from strength to strength with a third consecutive year-on-year increase. The paper reported an increase of 14,536 copies a day, up 2.28% year on year, giving the paper a circulation of 652,264 with full-price sales up by over 3%.

Robert Thomson, editor of The Times, said: "Whether in compact or broadsheet form, The Times breaks more stories than any other UK newspaper and offers readers unrivalled comment and analysis from the best journalists in the business."

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