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Johnston Press cull of editors condemned

12 April 2012

The NUJ has called on the local community to join the union in condemning the "shocking" announcement that the editors of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post are to be combined.

The surprise announcement was followed by the sacking of the Scotsman's editor-in-chief John McLellan and the cutting of a number of editor posts in the newspaper group's Lancashire titles.

Staff at the Scotsman were told that Johnston's departures was part of a plan to create a "flatter, more efficient management structure". The editors of the Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News and Scotland on Sunday will now report directly to the managing director of the Scottish publishing unit, Andrew Richardson.

NUJ members walked out following a mass meeting where members expressed their anger and concern at the way the dismissal was handled. They have drafted questions for management, seeking assurances on other cost-cutting or restructuring plans.

The management has contacted Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish Organiser, offering to meet early next week to discuss the situation. He said:

"The chapel are obviously angry and concerned, John was well respected as an editor and people want some answers about the company plans and long term commitment to the titles. I get the impression management want to reassure staff but this has massively disconcerted all the journalists across Johnston Press in Scotland.
"We want to retain the good industrial relations with the company the union has enjoyed in recent years but need assurances on how future cuts are going to be handled and that the management will meet the level of consultation we expect."

An earlier statement from Helen Oldham, managing director of Johnston Press, said:

"As part of the overall objective of creating a more efficient management structure, we are proposing to make the following change: the roles of editor of the Yorkshire Post and editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post will be combined into a single role with responsibility for both titles. We are in consultation with both Peter Charlton and Paul Napier and further announcements will be made in due course."

The papers' joint chapel responded:

"The announcement that the roles of the editors of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post are to be combined is viewed with great concern by members of the National Union of Journalists Joint Chapel (office branch). Officers of the joint chapel call on Johnston Press management to provide full details of what this move will entail and where it will lead. We want cast-iron guarantees that the editorial quality of the two publications will be safeguarded.
"Under Johnston Press's control the editorial staff of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post has been subjected to repeated redundancies which have reduced the workforce by 40 per cent. The Yorkshire Evening Post has been reduced to two editions which are printed the night before going on sale. The Yorkshire Post also produces fewer editions. Editorial quality has inevitably suffered.
"Johnston Press constantly seeks more cuts and higher profits to ease the financial difficulties it faces - difficulties caused by Johnston Press's own mistakes. At a time of great change within the industry, the decision to risk the loss of an experienced editor, on top of the job losses that have already occurred in the editorial department, can only be viewed with alarm.
"We hope that the wider community that these titles have served for many years will share our concern at a time when Yorkshire needs a strong and coherent voice to promote the interests of the region and those who live in it."

The company also announced that the editor of the Lancashire Evening Post, Simon Reynolds, has left the company. It released a statement saying:

"Simon Reynolds, editor of the Lancashire Evening Post, has been placed on leave and is in consultation with the company. Further announcements on the editorship of the Lancashire Evening Post will be made in due course."

The company said it intends to merge a number of editor posts in its titles in Lancashire. The deputy editor roles at the Lancashire Evening Post, Blackpool and Wigan will be cut.

Barry Fitzpatrick, NUJ deputy general secretary, said:

"This shocking announcement creates a huge amount of insecurity for our members. This cost-cutting programme will do nothing to enhance the quality of content or service to the reader. The local NUJ official has now been invited to meet Helen Oldham and we will be using this opportunity to ask her reconsider these changes which will have consequences for all the staff."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"These Yorkshire papers have a proud tradition of serving their community. Forty years ago the Yorkshire Evening Post had a staff of 1,350, eight editions and a daily circulation of 230,000. Today there are fewer than 400 and it has two editions a day. Further cuts and attacks on editorial is not the panacea for increased circulation."

Chris Morley, Northern & Midlands Organiser, said:

"The editorial teams in Johnston Press's titles have been subjected to constant job attrition over a number of years and our members' ability to produce quality journalism has been severely eroded in that time. These latest cuts are extremely worrying, not only in the signal they give about the company's commitment to quality and localism in its content, but also the brutal treatment to which staff are being subjected. The NUJ will not stand idly by where its members are attacked in this way."

Tags: , johnston press, newspapers, yorkshire, regional newspapers, local newspapers