London's papers lose huge wealth of experience
3 December 2015
More than 300 years' worth of experience has been lost from Newsquest's south London titles in the past two years, because of redundancy or reporters leaving in disgust because of savage cuts to newsrooms.
Some of those who left had worked in the industry for 40 years, said the south London NUJ chapel, which reckons in all 330 years of experience has been lost.
Journalists with long-standing and heartfelt connections to their patches have been sacked or left, leaving a void of local and specialist knowledge.
The titles affected are the News Shopper series, the Surrey Comet and the Richmond and Twickenham Times, and the south London Guardian series covering Croydon, Epsom, Kingston, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon.
The News Shopper office was closed during this period and its reporters ordered to work remotely from home and cafés.
After the cutbacks which precipitated this summer's eight-day strike, Newsquest even made redundant the HR manager charged with running the consultation process for the journalists involved.
Early next year, sub-editors will be made redundant if they refuse the company's offer to move 128 miles to Weymouth to continue working. They will be replaced with a new content management system, Knowledge. Content editors and reporters will be given a day, and half a day, respectively, to learn how to use it.
It is the fourth round of redundancies Newsquest has imposed on its south London division since the early summer of 2014.
The journalists have been supported by a motion passed by the London Assembly which asked Boris Johnson, the mayor, to write to Newsquest about its decision to move production jobs out the capital and called on the Assembly's Economy Committee to investigate the state of local press in the capital. The Assembly said it believed the loss of production jobs would threaten the quality and long term survival of local papers in south London.
A south London NUJ chapel spokesman said:
"The feeling after you are told by well-paid Newsquest executives that they plan to lay off your colleagues and friends is hard to describe. But the emotional toll is plain to see when leaving speeches are made and they disappear out of the door for the last time.
"The draining of hard-won journalistic experience not only hurts those left behind, but also does a disservice to trainee reporters joining the newsroom, who now have far fewer wise heads to rely on for guidance."
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"Newsquest's contempt for its staff and its complete disregard for investing in strong, local newspapers for its readers has not going unnoticed. Local politicians and MPs gave their support during the strike and the London Assembly has stepped in again to show its disquiet about the conduct of the Newsquest management. London, by head of population, is one of the least well served by newspapers and Newsquest seems hell-bent on making the situation worse."