London Assembly told Londoners deserve better than a fake editor George Osborne for their flagship newspaper
London Assembly - © nuj
21 March 2017
As objections to George Osborne's appointment to the editorship of the Evening Standard continue to grow, the National Union of Journalists will tell the London Assembly that Londoners do not deserve to have their flagship newspaper edited by a politician to further his personal and political ambitions.
The Assembly's economic committee (10.00, Tuesday 21 March) will be quizzing London news organisations and industry experts on the provision of news in the capital and asking views on the controversial appointment of the former chancellor and Tatton MP to the role.
Séamus Dooley, acting National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary, said:
"When staff are faced with pay cuts and reduced hours, when editorial resources are being slashed and the second edition of the newspaper has been abandoned, Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev appointed a former chancellor paid to wear more hats than the late Queen Mother as editor. It could be argued this is not the first post he has been given without obvious credentials, but this is the most audacious and outrageous appointment. George Osborne will be a fake editor paid to produce pretend news by a proprietor who has shown complete contempt for real journalists and journalism."
He said journalists with a wealth of experience had been passed over so Lebedev could appoint his chum to this plum job. "Above all this position demands a commitment to truth and to holding power to account. No one who holds a position of political power can claim to simultaneously hold power to account," he said.
Laura Davison, the NUJ's national organiser, will tell the cross-party committee chaired by Fiona Twycross AM, that London, one of the world's greatest capitals, is poorly served by its local news provision following years of jobs cuts and lack of investment by newspaper publishers. She said:
"Many titles in the capital are in a very vulnerable position; that is why the Assembly must act urgently to prevent a crisis in local news provision turning into a disaster. The cuts have had a severe impact on the coverage of the the Assembly, local councils, health authorities and other democratic organisations. Journalists working on local newspapers in London are voting with their feet because their pay does not cover the cost of living in the capital.
"We are asking the committee to recommend that Sadiq Khan, London's mayor, has meaningful discussions with news organisations to look at solutions to the crisis and for the Assembly to set forward an economic stimulus plan for start-up media companies. Journalism should be providing opportunities for employment in the digital economy.
"We will be asking the mayor to hold an investigation into diversity in the capital's media so it is representative of the communities it serves. Journalism as a whole is 94 per cent white and one of the most socially exclusive professions. Londoners deserve a multi-cultural, diverse and varied press to give a voice to all the communities in this vibrant city."
The NUJ has asked the mayor to support the union's Local News Matters Week from 24 March to 1 April and use his influence to call on the government to hold a national inquiry into the UK's media; make local newspapers community assets, to prevent newspaper titles closing overnight and to give potential new owners, including local co-operatives, the time to put together a bid for a paper; to investigate new sustainable models for news provision; and to persuade Google and Facebook, responsible for starving the press of advertising, to fund media start-ups and projects supporting public service journalism.