MPs back NUJ call for inquiry into local press
2 December 2014
Gareth Thomas MP has backed the NUJ's call for a for a short, sharp inquiry into the future of local newspapers, following the closure of his local paper the Harrow Observer.
The paper is one of seven Trinity Mirror South titles, including Reading Post and Surrey Herald to close this month with the loss of approximately 50 editorial and non-editorial jobs. Simon Fox, Trinity Mirror's chief executive recently told staff at the Reading Post that the newspaper had a healthy future.
The Labour MP for Harrow West said:
“I was very sorry to hear that the Harrow Observer is closing down. It has played a key role in fostering a sense of community in the borough, helping people to know what was going on and reporting on what young and old, new and long term residents have been up to. It has always been a crucial forum for debating local important issues and it will leave a big gap.
"Given the vital role that local newspapers play in informing our local democracy, I am calling for a short cross-party and inter-departmental inquiry to see how we can protect and secure a future for local newspapers.”
The EDM has so far been signed by ten MPs.
Gareth Thomas's comments followed a motion passed by the union's group chapel which said:
"This group chapel condemns Trinity Mirror for the announced job losses and title closures at TMS. The decision will deprive many communities of local news and make it extremely difficult to sustain a credible news presence in many others.
"The group chapel finds it alarming that the Reading Post is being shut with associated job losses only months after Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox encouraged staff to believe it had a healthy future. The group chapel also expresses extreme concern at the intention to operate a stand-alone website in the Reading area concentrating on breaking news, what's on and sport. It does not believe this website will be sufficiently well staffed under current proposals to provide a sustainable news service of the depth and quality deserved by local people.
"The group chapel is also extremely concerned at the prospect of such a poorly staffed website being rolled out as a model to other Trinity Mirror centres. Such an outcome would result in further heavy job losses as well as wiping out effective news coverage in many parts of Britain. The group chapel accordingly calls on the general secretary, other officials of the union and the NEC to seek urgent talks with Simon Fox with a view to establishing Trinity Mirror's future intentions and current strategy, as well as making our concerns known.
"The group chapel also calls on the general secretary, other officials of the union and the NEC to again draw the union's serious concerns about the future of the local and regional newspaper industry to the attention of politicians and government policy makers."
It was also agreed that the NUJ would be asking for a substantial pay increase for 2015.
Early day motion 585: CLOSURE OF LOCAL NEWSPAPERS
That this House regrets the latest announcement from Trinity Mirror newspapers that approximately 50 editorial and non-editorial jobs will be lost as seven newspapers in the south of England, including the Harrow Observer, Reading Post and Surrey Herald, are to be closed; notes that the proposals will mean that the county of Berkshire will be served by a digital-only model; further notes that the latest closures come on top of the closure of 150 local newspaper titles since the financial crisis of 2008, with many more reducing the frequency of publication or the range of locally-specific news coverage; is concerned about the loss of such assets to local communities and the important democratic function they serve in reporting on public life including local and national election campaigning; welcomes the recent cross-party stakeholder seminar organised by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to consider policy responses; and joins the National Union of Journalists in calling for a short, sharp cross-party and inter-departmental government inquiry into securing a future for the industry, in order to protect the public interest and defend jobs in quality local journalism.
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