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J'Accuse: Thomson cuts imperil Reuter news

Cuts, cuts, cuts - do other former coalface toilers resent the current dangerous, shambolic treatment of Reuters by the Thomson press dynasty?

These slash-and-burn orders come from detached managers in their think-yurts, desperate to please those Canadian tightwads guarding their moneybags.

Less is not more.

The old Reuter administration could be pretty bad but this remote family seem hellbent on turning general news into a zombiefied American press service - opinion in stories along with ads, curbs on weekend/overnight/secondary/stories, all without deference to Reuters long, admirable way of doing things.

Okay, we can ignore those dozy watchdogs, the trustees, whose silence has become a deafening roar. But (Man, I love typing this classical stuff) quis custodiet etc?

Details of the Thomson takeover remain obscure, at least to me, much beyond that they are a hugely wealthy clan that emerged from shadowy origins. Who thought their hometown a likely place to anchor a global news agency? What, uniquely, do they know in Toronto, a self-regarding provincial capital with a world view mainly limited to ice hockey?

The takeover saw Reuter stalwarts replaced by Thomson stooges with alien ideas about news-writing. Then the revolution began devouring its children. And the comings and goings persist to this day.

Dreary ambitions (e.g. Pulitzers), ditchwater-dull management style, mumbo-jumbo statements, cack-handed PR - one fears for the future.

The race is generally to the swift, that's the way to bet. For example, TR announces a departure from an iconic Docklands HQ, while fast-rising Bloomberg says it's engaged in one of Britain's biggest building projects to create a giant European HQ, apparently opposite the Bank of England in the City of London.

Private Eye, the satirical magazine, mocks the shamefully-dwarfed Olympics reporting staff. A weird decision emerges to transplant sub-editors to the boondocks, i.e. Nottingham. What next - robots in Sherwood Forest?

Ancient China's sentence of "death by a thousand cuts" is a bit of a misnomer because the victim usually died after the first few incisions.

How much more mutilation before it's Reuters RIP? The agency already languishes among the ghosts of Fleet Street.

If you'll excuse a slight literary touch: Though he focused his verdict on Montreal, Samuel Butler might well have said instead: "O God! O Toronto!" Amen.

Footnote: What do I know? Well, there's a personal record of journalism over nearly 50 years, a lot of it with Reuters. Must have picked up something.

The literary attribution in this item has been corrected. It was Samuel Butler, not Rudyard Kipling as stated in the original version, who said "O God, o Montreal." ■