New editor wields jobs axe at `Observer'

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MATHEW HORSMAN ...TEXT: The new editor of the Observer, Will Hutton, has moved to cut at least eight senior journalists from his staff, in what could be the first of a round of redundancies at the ailing title.

Significantly, at least two major positions - that of City Editor and Review Editor - will be filled, at least on an interim basis, with staff from the Guardian, the Observer's sister publication. Observer insiders continued to insist that the Guardian management does not intend to create a seven-day news operation, despite the appointment of David McKie, a Guardian columnist, to edit the review section and Alex Brummer, the Guardian's City Editor, to fulfil the same role at the Observer.

On Friday, the Guardian Media Group, which owns the two titles, appointed Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor, to the position of executive editor of the Observer, for a period of at least six months.

Some of the sacked staff were closely identified with Andrew Jaspan, the former editor, who left last Friday.

Journalists are bracing for further cuts, but a spokesperson said additional redundancies were not planned at present.

The number of redundancies could be limited by a lack of resources at the media group, which could struggle to put together packages for departing staff. "We don't have unlimited resources, and can't pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in redundancy payments," said one source.

The redundancies were not unexpected, given the Observer's financial difficulties but none- theless came as a shock at the papers' Farringdon Road offices. "This just isn't a part of Guardian culture," said one journalist. "Other newspapers may sack their journalists, but not us."

t The Financial Times is expected today to unveil its own redundancy scheme, aiming to cut up to 35 jobs.