31 October 2014

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Outspoken editor receives notice of redundancy

Jim Oldfield, editor of the South Yorkshire Times, has been made redundant.

After a career spanning 37 years Jim received a letter on Monday informing him that he will soon be out of  a job.

He has been taking part in indefinite strike action against proposals by Johnston Press to cut 18 staff at South Yorkshire Newspapers. He will now appeal against his redundancy and wants it to be heard by company chief executive John Fry.

Said Jim: “I have now been made redundant by JP, in a brown paper envelope couriered to my home on Monday evening after close of play and shoved through my letterbox – a fine thank-you from a company for whom I worked for seven-plus years, for a maximum salary of £25,000 and from whom I claimed but a handful of expenses in those seven years, running my own car on my own petrol while acting as everything from editor to photographer.

He added: “I have now demanded that my appeal is heard by Fry himself and the considered by board of directors.”

Jim ran a story on the front page of the Mexborough-based paper when the proposals were announced which led to a dispute with management who made changes to the article.

Jim then checked  the company’s Editors’ Handbook in which CEO John Fry says “editors must be free to edit without management interference”.  

He  then brought a grievance against editor-in-chief Graeme Huston for gross misconduct which was not upheld by the company.

He later went on to speak at a National Union of Journalists’ meeting in which he not only revealed his own wage but the wages of all his staff.

He said he was paid £25,500 while trainee journalists at South Yorkshire Newspapers were on £14,000; page designers £15,000; senior reporters £18,000; and assistant editors £24,000.

Yesterday we reported that he is due to meet with Labour leader Ed Miliband to talk about regional newspaper companies being included in the phone hacking enquiry.

Doncaster-based editor-in-chief of South Yorkshire Newspapers Graeme Huston will take over responsibility for the South Yorkshire Times.

Johnston Press did not wish to comment.

26 Comments

  1. Best mate

    Rare that an editor puts his head above the parapet and in such a public fashion in the way this guy has done, so no surprise this is the outcome.

    Good luck Jim.

    As for JP (and you can also include the likes of Newsquest in this) I continue to be disgusted by the way they continually refuse to comment on stories regarding their own staff and newspapers when they place such great stall in these same publications holding others in the community to account.

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  2. Rob, uk

    The depressing thing about this … one of the depressing things …. is the no comment. Yet again a newspaper company being total hypocrites. They would expect any local employer to comment on job issues but, as per usual, the management buries its head in the sand when they are shedding jobs. How any staff can have faith in these people is beyond me. There is a strata of md level people who have run this industry into the ground yet they seem to remain in the top jobs, well paid and if they do get the boot, they seem to pop up somewhere else very soon.
    By the way, I think HTFP is frequently a bit pathetic in seemingly never challenging these companies on their ‘no comment’ policies.

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  3. GladImOutOfIt, Herefordshire

    A typical mean-minded action by a mean-minded company. And another example of cutting off its nose to spite its face, because i bet Jim Oldfield was one of JP’s better editors

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  4. Alice

    Complaining about your salary after you’ve been made redundant seems a bit daft. If Jim had such problems with what he was paid, why didn’t he get a job somewhere else?

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  5. Stephen

    An editor who values truth more than the party line – would that they were all like that. Best of luck, Jim, hope someone quickly recognises the good work you did at the SYT and gives you a new job as editor.

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  6. Happy where he is

    Alice,
    I think you will find Jim complained about his salary weeks ago, not just now, when he’s been made redundant.
    And it’s so easy to get a job somewhere else at the moment, isn’t it ?

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  7. Sunny side up, Doncaster

    I remember when Jim first arrived at South Yorkshire Newspapers and took the helm as editor of Johnston’s (at the time) newest money-spinners- the community newsletters – I was struck by his passion for digging out cracking stories for what were, let’s face it, small, monthly free sheets.
    He turned the newsletters into much more than they really would have been without him. It strikes me that JP has probably shot itself in the foot getting rid of Jim – who offered the firm good value for money.
    I just hope the package they pay him is attractive and reflects the dedication he gave to the company.

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  8. Jim Oldfield

    Statutory redundancy on 25k is not attractive and in fact barely reflects the sky above… and they were told form the outset that I will sign no gagging clauses.
    This is not over.

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  9. ivan, derbyshire

    I know nothing of Mr Oldfields prowess as editor except to note the support he, and the strike, appears to have in the local community.
    A publisher that has as its main focus the production of quality local news titles, both in print and on line, is likely to engage support from that community.
    An approach of ‘no comment’ and an overarching corporate response to local issues is likely to alienate said publisher from its community.
    Independent, often micro, publishers continue to thrive across the land when passion mixed with a genuine intent to provide worthwhile material to readers is employed.
    From what I’ve seen, you’ve started already Mr Oldfield with your bootleg papers; take this opportunity to start something new. You might just be surprised….

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  10. Robin Young, South-West Scotland

    Until July 29 I, too, was a Johnston Press editor, responsible for two weeklies in South-West Scotland. I handed in my notice three months ago, ready to do anything rather than continue under a system that was neither safe nor sustainable. An active NUJ member for four decades, I admire Jim’s courageous campaign on pay and staffing issues. My salary, after 42 years in journalism, was a princely £27,000 for putting in more unpaid hours than could ever be calculated just to make sure that our understaffed and continually deteriorating newspapers hit the streets. As with many other editors, I found salaries under the regime were an exercise in time travel – appreciably less than we had been earning under previous (and sadly often much-maligned) employers many years before. The morally bankrupt asset-stripping policies pursued by senior management throughout the company have put hundreds, if not thousands, out of work. Towns across the British Isles no longer have a weekly paper office at their centre. If Johnston Press can’t invest in its greatest asset – the workforce – then it’s time to accept the inevitable and sell to others who will. In the meantime, don’t give up the fight Jim – there are more people backing you out there than you might think!

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  11. Jim Oldfield

    Everything you say is bang on Robin, and I would be delighted if, via the union, you would make contact with me. I did not start this to lose -and I don’t intend to stop until the practices of ALL the Big Five proprietors over at least the past decade are exposed, and this festering sore drained once and for all.
    Your own input will prove invaluable.
    Jim

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  12. Harold

    Shocking practice from a shocking company. You’d just love to see all of JP go belly up, apart from the fact innocent people will be hit by it. Solidarity, bros

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  13. samtheman

    Well done Jim…keep your stance firm against the JP bully boy management. They haven’t the first clue about local newspapers and have decimated the industry….keep fighting and justice will be done.

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  14. Heart of all things Frugal

    Go Jim!!

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  15. Mad Hatter

    Alice

    are you in wonderland? thousands aren’t.

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  16. KellyC

    Jim, you are a hero. If the local newspaper industry continues to lose people like you then there will be no local newspaper industry left. Your dedication is an inspiration to young (and old) reporters. Keep the faith.

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  17. Lee, Sheffield

    I applied for the vacant editor’s position at the SYT with Jim back in 2006 having been the deputy editor there for around a year.

    Neither of us were considered good enough for the job at the time and I continued to put the paper together as deputy editor, working under the editor-in-chief who was based in Doncaster.

    I resigned shortly after when JP’s obsession with the edit-ad ratio resulted in the SYT going from around 15 news pages in 2005 to 7 in a particularly bad week a year later.

    I complained to the editor-in-chief when we received that week’s flatplan that it was just not right to put out such a publication and expect people to pay for it. The response I received from that we had to “take the pain”.

    A day or so later myself and the reporters fielded calls from people saying they would never buy the title again.

    Seemingly the title was in freefall for some time after this until JP saw sense and appointed Jim to steady the ship and halt the decline. This latest decision is the reward for his efforts.

    I hope Jim has success in his efforts to get JP to see sense. If John Fry has any business sense at all he should get Jim and the rest of the strikers up to to Edinburgh asap and ask them for their ideas on how to get JP out of the mess they are in.

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  18. Observer, Scotland

    Freddie Johnston would surely be ashamed of the way managers treat editors and journalists nowadays?
    Apparently, his son Michael and similar factory managers have not inherited his father’s respect for local communities and local staff.
    The wages in the newspaper industry are so poor that they will beget a poor level of staff and content. The signs are already there.

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  19. voice of reason

    This guy is a hero. Sadly, he will almost certainly not be listened to and his point will be forgotten in a few weeks time. One day, however, someone will stand up to these greedy bastards and it will actually mark a turning point. Bring it on!

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  20. stewart perkins, market drayton

    Jim Oldfield is a local hero. I feel it might make a film, if only they could get someone to play the villains. Tricky call……..

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  21. Ex-Ex

    Bravo Jim Oldfield. I wish the editor of my old Northcliffe daily had shown half the backbone you are showing over the past few years with enforced redundancies and the consequent decline in the paper’s quality. The industry needs you, and thank you for fighting on behalf of countless regional and local journalists against the actions of clueless, amoral senior management who are driving the industry into the ground.

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  22. Insider, UK

    JP stand condemned by their silence. There is no defence to the truth. This will prove a costly strategy as Jim, an eloquent and forceful speaker with right on his side, continues to hold the high ground and bombard them with facts about their disgraceful ruination of the industry, and lives. He has given up a fat pay-off to avoid signing a gagging clause – he is a hero in a profession full of management mice content to do the dirty work of the JP fat cats.

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  23. sash

    observer, scotland

    Interesting about the Johnstons but I get the feeling you don’t know the son. Your post conflicts with comments he made at a Scottish Parliamentary committee hearing last year that were reported later by Greenslade and this site.

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  24. ScottyDog, Scotland

    sash – “Your post conflicts with comments he made at a Scottish Parliamentary committee..”

    That’s irony, right?

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  25. Hack's Yer Lot

    You would think someone high up in the JP chain of command would be by now asking some very serious questions as to why this has happened.
    For 24 people to be on indefinite strike now for 24 days suggests to me just how rotten things have become at South Yorkshire Newspapers.
    A sign of sheer desperation that no-one is listening.

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  26. sash

    scotty dog

    No, fact. Education, culture and life-long learning committee. Last year.

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