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York journalists seek to end Newsquest ownership

26 January 2009

Journalists in York are exploring ways of ending the ownership of the city's papers by a huge American conglomerate. Members of the NUJ at The Press and Gazette & Herald are being supported by their colleagues in exploring ways of finding a new proprietor to take over from Newsquest, a subsidiary of the giant US Gannett Corporation.

The company is based in Maclean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington DC.

The union's national executive council (NEC) last weekend backed a call from York journalists asking the NUJ to see if a buy-out might work.

Union members also hope that local business figures may come forward either to consider launching a rival or to finance a buy-out that would return the papers and websites to Yorkshire ownership. York journalists walked out for five days last May in protest over the company's pay structure.

Since then, they have faced redundancies and a freeze on salaries, moves by management the NUJ says have damaged the way the titles an cover a vibrant city.

Newsquest made an operating profit of £4.3 million in York in 2007, which helped pay an extra 18 per cent dividend to its American shareholders.

The journalists in York said they believed in the importance of local journalism and that Newsquest's continued ownership of The Press and Gazette & Herald is detrimental to the papers and websites, to the quality of journalism in York and North Yorkshire and therefore to the local community.

Adam Christie, NUJ NEC member for the North East of England, said:

"The experience of journalists in York is an example of what is happening around the country as media companies try to maintain profit levels several times greater than major supermarket chains at the cost of local news and the cultural and democratic health of our villages, towns and cities."

Tags: , newspapers, newsquest, york, gannett, nec, pay freeze, redundancies, york press, gazette & herald, ownership, websites, local newspapers