Paul Davidson chief executive of the Newsquest newspaper group which owns publications such as the Northern Echo, Glasgow Herald and Oxford Mail received £598,441 in salary last year.
This compares with the £20,000 or less that many of his journalists took home in the same period.
Times are tough, says the newspaper group in the latest available annual accounts of its UK parent company, Gannett UK. Indeed Mr Davidson received £612,405 salary in 2010, though the reduction may be explained by currency fluctuations, as Newsquest's parent group Gannett is based in America and his pay is calculated in dollars.
Nevertheless, he and his fellow directors shared "performance" cash payments of £268,000. Overall, the directors' pay-bill was up by £3,000 to £618,000. The figures, for 2011, also show that directors were awarded an additional £881,000 in "share-based payments" (compared to £872,000 in 2010).
Meanwhile, the amount paid out to staff fell 7.5 per cent overall to £123.08m and the number of editorial staff was cut by 6.8 per cent or 108 jobs to 1,465. There were no "performance" payments for journalists. According to these latest figures, Gannett made an operating profit of £56.8million with a gross profit margin of 23.5 per cent in the same period.
In addition, since the final salary pension scheme was closed in March 2011, the company's pension contributions fell from £17.1m (2010) to just £2.45m in 2011.
These are the hard facts behind the decision by journalists working for Newsquest in York and in Bradford to continue to protest against their unfair treatment with industrial action. After five years' service on Newsquest Bradford titles, journalists on the weeklies earn £19,672 and on the dailies £22,426. Since 2009, staff at York and Bradford have had a single 2 per cent rise in 2011 while the Retail Price Index has increased by 12 per cent in that period. Yet the figures show a £44,000 "share-based payment" for senior staff at Newsquest Yorkshire and North East.
Next week journalists in York and Bradford will take industrial action. Staff at York will hold a mandatory chapel meeting at 10am every day next week and staff in Bradford will hold a mandatory chapel meeting on Wednesday from noon.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands organiser, said: "These figures show that US-owned Gannett's UK operation, Newsquest, is still in robust health - as are the payments to directors. For directors to be given a £268,000 cash payment for 'performance' when all they are doing is finding fresh victims to target for redundancy and cost-cutting to keep up profit margins - rather than growing the business - is an insult to staff."
Mark Stead, Joint Father of Chapel, said: "Outstanding, award-winning journalists in York who give everything for a proud paper are struggling to ends meet and being asked to sympathise with Newsquest's pleas of poverty, while directors pocket their share of six-figure performance payments and a profitable company makes positive noises about its current health and its prospects for the future."
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: "There is no exaggeration that there is a crisis in local and regional news. But it isn't the recession or the downturn in advertising revenue to blame. It is the likes of Newsquest which has not been investing in the product and has instead been creaming off profits for shareholders and bloated executive pay. Our members are struggling to pay their bills and are finding it very tough, while at the same time Paul Davidson pocketed almost £600,000."
Newsquest is one of the UK's largest regional newspaper publishers with more than 200 newspapers, magazines and trade publications, including 17 paid-for dailies. Other titles include the Telegraph & Argus (Bradford), Evening Times (Glasgow), Southern Daily Echo (Southampton), The Argus (Brighton), The Press (York) and South Wales Argus (Newport).