Kent Messenger editor’s departure prompts Iliffe restructure

A long-serving editor’s departure has sparked a major reshuffle at an independent publisher, with three other weekly news chiefs moving to newly-created roles.

Iliffe Media has announced a series of changes at its subsidiary the KM Group as the publishing group “accelerates towards a digital future”.

The restructure has been announced by editorial director Ian Carter after Kent Messenger editor Denise Eaton left her role to join Nursing Times following a 35-year career in the regional press.

No jobs will be lost as a result of the moves which will see a series of new roles created from within the existing team.

Denise Eaton. right, pictured at one of her leaving events last week

Matt Ramsden, currently editor of the Medway Messenger and Gravesend Messenger  has been appointed senior editor for North and West Kent.

This sees his remit expanded to take in the Kent Messenger series, the Sheerness Times Guardian and Sittingbourne News, previously edited by Denise, and news editors and reporters working on those titles will now form one larger team.

Kentish Gazette and Thanet Extra editor Joe Walker has been appointed senior editor for South and East Kent and will oversee a similar operation there, with his portfolio expanding to incorporate the Kentish Express Series and the Folkestone Express.

Current Kentish Express and Folkestone editor Robert Barman has been appointed to the new position of managing editor, where he will focus on new product launches alongside staff recruitment, training and retention.

Other changes will see the merger of the current standalone newsdesk of the group’s Kent Online website into the wider editorial operation.

And senior multimedia editor Nicola Everett’s role will be expanded to focus on growing the KM’s podcast portfolio and working across the group’s digital, radio and TV operations, while

Two new head of news positions, for South and East Kent and North and West Kent respectively, are being created to oversee the day-to-day operation of KentOnline.

Two new news editor positions are also being created as part of restructure, along with a new audience engagement editor position which will focus on expanding the group’s newsletter portfolio.

Ian Carter, editorial director at parent company Iliffe Media Group, told HTFP: “The KM is in a strong position, with its combined revenue from digital and radio eclipsing print. We are also seeing real benefits from our partnership with the University of Kent on KMTV.

“These changes are aimed at putting digital at the heart of everything we do. We are fortunate to have a very dedicated and talented team of news editors and reporters and want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to develop their career and skills.”

The KM is also relaunching its apprenticeship scheme, which was paused during the pandemic.

Ian added: “We’ve always been proud of the success of the scheme – some of our first apprentices are now working in managerial positions, others have gone on to successful television careers. It was frustrating to pause it, but it’s essential the people we take on benefit from real-life newsroom experience.”

Ian first revealed the restructure was in the offing in a post on his personal blog,

He wrote: “A huge amount has changed since Denise was appointed KM editor, and the challenges of 24/7 publishing mean it’s all-but-impossible for one person to take overall responsibility for everything his or her brand publishes around the clock.

“So Denise’s exit is also firing the starting gun on a wider restructure at the KM, which we are discussing with colleagues now, as we accelerate towards a digital future.

“The demands of the job in 2022 mean we need to achieve that delicate balance of stories that generate tens of thousands of page views with those that make a long-lasting impact on their communities, and we need to do it all day, every day.

“Everyone in the industry knows the stories that require the least work can get you the biggest short-term gains. (It’s going to rain! It’s going to snow! There’s going to be a heatwave! Every Wetherspoon’s toilet in Kent reviewed!)

“But it’s the ones at which Denise excelled, which fought on behalf of readers or exposed hypocrisy and wrong-doing, which will be remembered in years to come and which are so important to stand us apart from the mass of social media content.

“I dearly wish Denise was part of our future but it is testament to her dedication that she has played a vital role in helping to shape our new structure even as she worked out her notice.”

In his blog, Ian also paid tribute to Denise, a former nurse, making clear her decision to leave was “hers and hers alone”.

He wrote: “Denise, as I seem to have said a few times recently, can be a pain in the backside but always for the best of reasons – continually pushing her managers to think differently, go further, do better.

“That’s what you look for in editor – somebody not afraid to manage upwards.

“And, whilst people may not always realise it, she has done more than anyone to fight for her news editors and reporters to be looked after in every sense.”