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Telegraph & Argus gets its facts wrong

20 February 2014

An inaccurate story by the Telegraph & Argus on its staff's one-day strike to defend local journalism and local jobs was in breach of the Editors' Code of Practice, said the NUJ.

Journalists on the Newsquest title in Bradford voted overwhelmingly for strike action following the company's decision to move production of the newspaper to Newport, Wales, putting 10 jobs at risk. Colleagues on titles in Darlington and York also walked out for 24 hours.

The action was supported by the public and local councillors. Chris Morley, Northern and Midlands organiser, said on Tuesday:

"The reaction of local people to the company's plan was one of horror. A woman drove up to the picket line at 7.30am to say she had heard it on the radio and wanted to tell us how appalled she was. Another man took a leaflet and then returned having read it to say how angry he was and that he would definitely write to the editor."

Laura Davison, national organiser, also on the picket line in Bradford, said:

"It's been brilliant to see Bradford people hooting their hearts out in support of NUJ members striking today. It's clear readers buy titles because they are part of their local community and that's where they want them to stay. Newsquest should press pause on their unsustainable cost cutting plans and keep quality journalism local."

The union delivered a "bouquet" of 10 leeks to Perry Austin-Clarke, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus editor-in-chief, representing the 10 jobs the company wants to transfer to Wales.

But the newspaper told a very different story.

David Coates, Newsquest's usually-reticent Yorkshire and North-East managing director, denied there were compulsory redundancies and claimed the company had invested in a "state of the art editorial system". The story about the strike implied that very few had voted for action, but did not mention that sister NUJ chapels in Darlington and York had also gone on strike on the same day. Nor did it report that the newspaper group had tried to intimidate and bully staff before the action with threatening letters to staff.

In the event, the strike was solidly respected by NUJ members. But the Telegraph & Argus did not seek to balance its article – also posted on the website with no opportunity for readers to place – by not approaching the union for comment or using any of the many public quotes made by officials about the strike.

The union also has evidence that the so-called "state of the art" PCS Knowledge software system has led to a fall in quality of newspaper and website production.

Chris Morley suggested the Telegraph & Argus had breached the Editors' Code that the "press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information."

Peter Barron, editor of the Northern Echo in Darlington, tweeted about the strike: "If any genuine readers wish to meet me personally to discuss the real position at The Northern Echo, please get in touch", suggesting that those who questioned the company's plans were somehow not genuine who care about their local paper being produced by local journalists should. The union has suggested that tho get in touch with him.

Chris Morley said:

"Having gone from a default position of not commenting on anything publicly, Newsquest has shown how rattled it is by Tuesday's walk-out by NUJ journalists in that it has had to resort to inaccurate and distorted propaganda.

"This fools no one – certainly not the staff who will have to deal with the dreadful fall-out of the company's ill-conceived plan to trash local jobs currently being done by skilled and experienced staff. Northern Echo editor Peter Barron's own contorted position is particularly interesting as his paper has in recent years campaigned successfully against employers wanting to send jobs in Darlington elsewhere."

Tags: , newsquest, newspapers, regional newspapers, strike, bradford, northern echo, darlington, telegraph & argus