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Yorkshire journalists blame production system for 'silly' papers

16 April 2010

Angry journalists in Yorkshire are demanding action from Johnston Press Group to stop making their local papers look silly.

The company has forced the Atex content management system onto its newspapers and journalists with inadequate training and staffing. As a result, editions of the Sheffield Star and the South Yorkshire Times have been published this month with blank spaces and a whole front page with blacked out pictures of a group of convicted football hooligans.

Chris Morley, NUJ northern and midlands organiser, said:

"We warned Johnston Press Group that Atex was unproven, untried and untested. We said it was being implemented to a totally unrealistic timescale with woefully inadequate training and support locally. The net result is a publishing disaster that is seriously impacting on the health and well being of members, putting some on the edge of physical breakdowns.
"Those responsible for paying millions for such a calamity should seriously consider their position.
"Journalists are proud that their local papers are a vital part of local communities, so that the damage done to the quality of those papers by Johnston group's ill-considered introduction of the Atex system is a matter of serious professional concern. Bluntly, our members don't like being made to look stupid because of stupid management decisions."

The NUJ has warned consistently that staffing cuts, pay freezes and the effective abandonment of local supervisory knowledge in the Johnston newspaper production chain is threatening fatal damage to many valued local newspapers.

NUJ members across the group are voting in an industrial action ballot this month to protect jobs and quality journalism against mismanagement in the Johnston Press Group. Their defence of proper local journalism has won the support of readers and media commentators.

The attack on jobs and quality by Johnston Press management has continued. Journalists in Sunderland are being told by Johnston Press that they must travel 250 miles each day to work in Sheffield if they want to keep their jobs with the group. NUJ colleagues working at the Johnston group's Scarborough Evening News have already been ordered to Sheffield.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The changes that Johnston management is forcing through the group's newspapers are, ultimately, about cutting jobs.
"Editorial resources have been cut to the bone to pay for the Johnston debt mountain created through a foolish policy of buying up other titles at high cost. Now their bankers are telling them to start making repayments. Our members refuse to be victims of that mismanagement car crash.
"Johnston Press has the Atex juggernaut rolling throughout the group and expects its journalists to be panicked into deciding in a matter of a few weeks whether to uproot completely, apply for lower paid redeployment or leave with a redundancy package in despair at what will remain."

Tags: , newspapers, sheffield, johnston press, atex, strike, cuts, pay freeze, pay, sunderland echo, sheffield, scarborough, scarborough evening news, sheffield star, south yorkshire times