Local Epworth office newspaper replaced with minature mailbox
Mark Ditchfiled with Dusty, the 'editorial presence', outside the closed Epworth office - © Private
1 August 2011
A two-foot tall mailbox is the latest dynamic device introduced by South Yorkshire Newspapers to try to counter the popular NUJ strike at the Doncaster Free Press, Epworth Bells, Selby Times and South Yorkshire Times. The journalists are taking indefinite strike action in a fight to save jobs, prevent office closures and defend quality local journalism.
The Johnston Press group decided to close its historic Epworth office this summer, weeks after congratulating staff on producing the 7,000th edition of the Epworth Bells. However, South Yorkshire Newspapers editor-in-chief Graeme Huston said he wanted to "maintain an editorial presence" in Epworth.
Enter Dusty, 24 inches of miniature postbox located in the local library for readers to deposit letters and other potential sources for stories.
Mark Ditchfield is a reporter at The Bells and it has been his role to make weekly trips to the library, to pick up any material left in the post box. He said:
"Despite numerous plugs in the paper there has been precious little left in the box. I don't blame our readers for not embracing the 'editorial presence'. They have been left short-changed and lumbered in a pathetic attempt to compensate for the office closure."
Following a 100 per cent vote for strike action, NUJ member Mark Ditchfield is currently on the picket line with colleagues from sister titles The Doncaster Free Press, South Yorkshire Times and Selby Times.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, said:
"Silly gimmicks are no substitute for serious local journalism, and Dusty has no place in delivering a professional information service to the people of South Yorkshire.
"Instead of fiddling about with their toys, we say South Yorkshire Newspapers management should enter into meaningful negotiations to resolve our dispute. The intelligent approach would be to use the conciliation service ACAS to find a way forward.
"The NUJ is ready to go to ACAS at any time of the day or night. What is holding Johnston Press back? If the group cared about local journalism and the communities our members serve so diligently, it would enter talks now."