22 August 2014

Horizontal Jobs Scroller

Call 01332 253069
to advertise here

Political row erupts over newspaper’s planned office move

Plans by a Hertfordshire weekly to move its main offices to a neighbouring town have sparked political uproar from local councillors.

The Archant-owned Herts Advertiser, which has been based in St Albans for the past 155 years, is planning to move to Welwyn Garden City, seven miles away.

Advertiser bosses say they plan to maintain an office presence in St Albans, with reporters hot-desking and working out and about with laptops.

But local Liberal Democrat councillors have launched a public petition in protest at the move, which they hope to raise at a full council meeting next month.

St Albans Council group leader councillor Robert Donald said: “It is vital for many local businesses to be able to advertise in the local newspaper, which also provides an essential channel for democratic dialogue for local residents.

“We are therefore shocked at the suggestion that the Herts Advertiser could, after 155 years, be leaving St Albans.

“I hope that all those who want to keep competitive local newspapers going in St Albans will sign this petition, so that this matter can be debated at the next council meeting.

“I hope that cross-party support can be achieved on this important matter.”

The petition requires 500 signatures to ensure a debate can take place at the council meeting on 23 November.

It states: “We the undersigned are concerned at Archant’s plans to relocate the 156-year-old Herts Advertiser newspaper outside St Albans District.

“We believe that the economic and community benefits of having local newspapers currently based in St Albans, through jobs and advertising opportunities for local businesses, as well as ensuring local democratic dialogue, make it imperative to maintain competitive local newspapers in our District.

“We therefore call on Archant to work with the District Council, local groups and public bodies in St Albans, such as the Chamber of Commerce, to find a solution that would keep the Herts Advertiser within St Albans City and District.”

Archant Herts & Cambs commercial director, Amanda Davison-Young, said: “It is very important for our publications to be based in the communities which they serve and we have no intention of moving The Herts Advertiser from St Albans.

“We are looking at moving offices but will be keeping an office presence in the town, utlising modern methods of working such as hot desking and more mobile reporters with laptops working out and about on their patch.

“Our customers, whether they want to speak to a reporter, discuss an advert or pick up a paper will still be able to do so in St Albans just like they have for the past 156 years.”

9 Comments

  1. herts hack, hertfordshire

    If the council is so fussed about the Herts Ad staying in the city perhaps they could provide free of charge office space, because I’m sure they’ve got plenty to spare. Typical political posturing – of course a town centre office is always preferable but if your business is up against it, possibly because the levels of public notice, jobs and ROP advertising that once flowed from local authorities have been drying up for years, and your office lease comes to an end it makes sense to examine the options. Many newspapers are saddled with offices far too big for current needs which they can’t get shot of, and people in St Albans are doubtless encouraged to pay their council tax, enquire about services and generally interact with their local authority without even stepping across the doorstep of a local office, if such a thing still exists. As long as reporters are still on the ground and have a base from which to operate, what’s the problem?

    Report this comment

  2. Golam Murtaza

    A lot of good points made by Herts Hack.
    But I think it is important to stress the importance of having a proper office (however small it may be!) with phones and desks. I’m not yet convinced about how ‘easy’ it is to operate as a reporter by being constantly out and about with a laptop and mobile phone. Of course, if any reporter reading this does find it straightforward to work like that I’d be happy to hear their views.

    Report this comment

  3. Observer

    Methinks Herts Hack is, in fact, a management spokesperson trying to justify taking a local paper out of its traditional home.
    Judging by other office closures the idea of a ‘hot desk’ (is it in Greggs bakery?) is no more than a sound-bite.

    Report this comment

  4. Biff

    Golam.

    As a remote worker it is a great way to work and forces reporters to go into their community.
    I am aware that a lot of journos use remote working as an excuse to sit at home all day but having tried both ways remote working is very much the better option.
    I hot-desk at an office in my patch as the HQ is nine miles away and it works very well.

    And no I do not work for the Herts paper or Archant before i’m accused.

    I am much happier my company sold off our large (and relatively) empty offices to save cash rather than cut staff. I also agree with the point about parking. In my previous job there was no parking nearby except a council-owned car park. The editor and toggy got a pass from company but not any of the reporters. Who could pay the £600 themselves for a years pass or, as we all did, park 10 mins walk away. Not great for breaking stories. I

    Report this comment

  5. I don't believe it..., East of England

    Amanda Davison-Young’s public commitment to keep the Herts Ad in St Albans is just hot air.

    Archant has been talking for some time about closing offices. The managers have just failed to make up their minds about which offices should close. The whole process has been dragging on for months with very little thought to the employees whose lives are being played with.

    The “presence” in St Albans she talks about is likely to be an ad centre based in a newsagents. Reporters will be told to find their own shelter, preferably with free wifi access.

    That’s Archant’s commitment to communities in a nutshell.

    Report this comment

  6. GladImOutOfIt

    Many newspaper readers in other parts of the country would be delighted if their local newspaper had any sort of a presence on their patch – they’ve been disappearing for years. It’s rather good, in fact, that Archant are still there at all.
    If you’re a Rochdale Observer or Rossendale Free Press reader, for instance, the paper is produced from an anonymous former battery factory in Oldham and is all done by phone – no town centre presence whatsoever. In Cheltenham the Echo is still there, but on the first floor of an anonymous office block with no street front presence at all – the public truly don’t appear welcome, even if they can find it.
    The Ledbury Reporter (an outpost of the Malvern Gazette, produced in Worcester) got rid of its local office and its very experienced local reporter several years ago, with the result that local coverage of a serious fight over a new Tesco is absurdly half-hearted.
    “Hot desking” (AKA leaning on the right bars) would be fine if the reporters in question had the time to do it, but in practice of course they are too busy recycling press releases etc – their numbers have been so drastically cut that decent coverage is all but impossible. The reporters never get out of the office and staff turnover (not to mention redundancies) means that patch reporters change too often and cannot get to know their areas.
    Some towns have lost their newspapers entirely.
    Those St Albans councillors who believe the town centre presence is good for democracy are absolutely right, but in today’s climate they are merely ******* in the wind.

    Report this comment

  7. Blustringer

    It’s all a bit mad really.

    I know, let’s start a local newspaper.

    We’ll site our offices 40 miles distant from the circulation area and centralise every conceivable function as far away as it possibly could be – not even necessarily in the same continent – then we can sit back and watch the cash roll in while launching “Keep It Local” campaigns.

    Any guesses as to why this might not work as a business model?

    Newspaper publishers? Any guesses?

    No, thought not.

    Report this comment

  8. Former Westcountry Hack, Wiltshire

    GladImOutOfIt makes totally relevent points – it is no different in Wiltshire where I live. The Gazette and Herald is selling up in Marlborough and has basically no presence in Chippenham, the Wilts and Glos Standard is leaving Malmesbury. The result will not be a good one.

    Report this comment

  9. richard meredith

    What an amazing irony! A good few years ago I was seconded from the newsdesk on the Herts Ad at St Albans to open up a branch office at WGC. Now they want to do it the other way round. Oh dear! As some of your corr have already said, and as I can confirm even from those long-ago days, this might be a good plan for the managemnt to save some money, but it will be a bad day for the people of St Albans who are bound to see a dilution of the quality and extent of the HA’s news content that has served them so well for more than 150 years. Every good local paper reporter knows how vital it is to be on your main patch – to watch its heart beat and feel its pulse. Under today’s pressures it is difficult enough to come up for air every once in a while let alone expend the time and energy traveling from some distant outpost to where the real news is. Don’t give up St Albans.

    Report this comment



HoldtheFrontPage, Northcliffe House, Meadow Road, Derby DE1 2BH. Registered in England and Wales with Company No. 03031677
Powered by Wordpress, supported by Adaptive