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West Yorkshire NUJ launches local news community campaign

© NUJ

19 March 2015

Fifty community representatives have joined members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in West Yorkshire to voice concerns about the impact of job cuts on local newspapers.

Members of the NUJ's Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group (YWNG) chapel originally wrote to Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield in November following the decision to make all four staff photographers on YWNG's eight titles compulsorily redundant.

The decision came weeks after journalists working across the Johnston Press Yorkshire publishing unit were told there would be up to 19 more editorial job cuts in spring 2015.

The company last week said its latest estimate was for an overall reduction of 16 (15.5 full-time equivalent/FTE) posts across the unit, which produces the YWNG titles and 19 others. They include the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Halifax Courier, Scarborough News and Harrogate Advertiser.

Today the YWNG chapel wrote again to Ashley Highfield to share a statement of support signed by 50 community representatives including local MPs, councillors, business groups, civic society organisations, arts groups, environmental campaigners and trade unionists.

A YWNG NUJ chapel spokeswoman said:

"Our members believe passionately in the importance of local journalism but are being prevented from giving readers the level of news and sports coverage they deserve because of a lack of staff and investment in our papers - and any further jobs cuts will only add to this problem.
"The support we have received from the community shows that the wider public also values local journalism and the work our members do."

The statement condemns the decision to make redundant the staff photographers on YWNG's eight titles, including the Wakefield Express, Pontefract and Castleford Express, and the Dewsbury Reporter.

It highlights the valuable contribution of photographers to the quality of news and sports coverage both in print and online, as well as the scale of cuts already made at the papers. Since November 2010, the company has closed seven of YWNG's eight district offices and cut the number of editorial staff on the eight papers from 52 to 22.

The statement asks how the papers will continue to cover local elections, council meetings and the courts or run campaigns if further cuts are implemented across the publishing unit's 27 titles.

This community alliance calls on Ashley Highfield and chief financial officer David King to forgo their 2014 bonuses and allow the money be invested in the company's newsrooms. The bonus opportunity for their roles was previously capped at 100 per cent of their respective £400,000 and £250,000 salaries, but it was agreed last year that they would be eligible for bonuses of up to 180 per cent and 150 per cent respectively based on the company's performance in 2014.

The statement closes by urging the company to work with the NUJ to find an alternative to further job cuts across Johnston Press Yorkshire.

This initiative is part of the NUJ's local news matters campaign, a national campaign based in local communities, to defend jobs and newspapers that are currently under threat.

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said:

“There is a groundswell of people in local communities now realising the damage that has been - and is still - being done to local news and the implications of that for local life.
“The relentless cuts, reorganisations and redundancies that our members have had to contend with over many years must now come to an end. Instead there needs to be a new agenda of investment by the newspaper companies in journalism and quality news. That will be good not only for local communities but for the businesses themselves.”

There is a debate on the future of local newspapers in parliament on Thursday 19 March in Westminster Hall starting at 1.30pm. Watch the debate online.

The NUJ local news matters campaign.

Tags: , yorkshire, local media, local newspapers, local news matters, parliamentary group, parliament uk, johnston press, cuts, jobs, newspapers