Newsquest south comes under fire from local politicians
8 September 2016
Newsquest's decision to make further redundancies at its centre in Sutton, leaving just 18 journalists to cover the whole of south London and parts of Kent, has been censured by politicians across the board.
James Berry, Conservative MP for Kingston and Surbiton, tweeted "Whatever your politics, this is bad news for local democracy in #Kingston". He is now planning to ask other south London MPs to join him in seeking a meeting with Newsquest management. This week Steve Reed, Labour MP for Croydon North, contacted the NUJ with his concerns about the situation at Newsquest London south and this was before the latest announcement.
Fiona Twycross AM, Labour’s London Assembly economy spokesperson, said:
“Newsquest is putting its staff in an appalling position. They are faced with the prospect of redundancy or an unmanageable workload, neither option is fair.
“Local newspapers play a key role to play in keeping communities informed and keeping those in public office in check. Not only is this move at odds with decent working practice, it risks watering down the contribution of local press to democratic accountability. That serves nobody well.”
Siobhain McDonagh Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden tweeted her letter to Henrey Faure Walker, Newsquest's chief executive, outlining the concerns of the union, including the questionable working practices of the newspaper group. She said:
"Newsquest title's are amongst the most well-respected sources of local news in London and the Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, in particular provide my constituents with reliable and high quality information and news...How can these high quality newspapers thrive in such a climate."
Helen Goodman MP, chair of the NUJ Parliamentary Group, said:
"These proposed cuts are very worrying and threaten the future of South London's local news provision. Sadly, it is part of an ongoing trend where local papers are stripped of staff and expertise, demoralising journalists and leaving communities in the dark about what is going on locally. The government needs to take this issue seriously and work to secure the future of local news."
Stephen Alambritis, leader of Merton council tweeted: "Entirely the wrong move by #Newsquest." and Epsom councillor Kate Chinn tweeted:"Not good for individuals affected or local communities - we need our good quality local newspapers." Denise Hyland, leader of Greenwich council, told the NUJ: "The Royal Borough of Greenwich values the important role of the media which helps to provide news and information, in addition to holding all public bodies to account. I have great respect for the role that the News Shopper has played locally for decades. I am therefore very sorry to learn of this latest development and I am happy to lend my support."
The NUJ chapel at the Financial Times passed a motion voicing its concerns and pledged money towards a hardship fund for the journalists:
"The FT chapel is very concerned about the continuing job and budget cuts at Newsquest and fully supports NUJ members balloting for strike action there over pay and workload. By allowing local news titles in South London to be produced by skeleton staff teams and work experience students, managers are showing their contempt for both journalists and journalism. We call on Newsquest to resume talks with the NUJ and end the dangerously low staffing levels imposed over the past year. We agree to organise collections for a hardship fund should members at Newsquest take strike action."
The Guardian and Observer NUJ chapel said:
"The Guardian and Observer NUJ chapel deplores the continuing job cuts at Newsquest and fully supports NUJ members balloting for strike action over pay and workload. Democracy demands a strong and active local press, which is being undermined by the job losses at Newsquest and we urge the company to resume talks with the NUJ with a view to ending the dangerously low staffing levels imposed over the past year. The chapel authorises the officers to make a suitable donation to a strike fund should Newsquest journalists be forced to take industrial action."
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- NUJ Members who live in south London are being asked to write to their MP or local councillors asking them to contact Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org and local managing editor Tony Portelli at email@example.com and requesting that they reverse this disastrous decision which puts the reporting of local democracy at risk and puts journalists out of work or with impossible workloads. You can contact your MP or local councillors via the Write to Them website.
- Send messages of support to the Newsquest south chapel to firstname.lastname@example.org