A freelance journalist who was briefly taken on to run the newsdesk of a doomed weekly has questioned why his editor was allowed to employ him.
Cambridge First, launched by Archant as a “21st century newspaper” in May 2010, was axed in March with the loss of 12 jobs.
Among those put out of work was Tim Gillett, who had been taken on as the newspaper’s head of content just three weeks before the closure announcement.
Now he has recounted his experiences in a first person piece for HTFP, questioning why his editor Rose Taylor had not been prevented from recruiting him.
Says Tim: “While I cannot blame the editor who took me on, as the decision was clearly as much as a shock for her as it was for me, I find it completely inconceivable that nobody in the company knew of the plans.
“I cannot believe that directors were not even considering closing the paper less than three weeks before the announcement was made – in which case, how could they have allowed the editor to take on new staff?”
Archant has been made aware of Tim’s comments but has so far not made any response to them.
Here is his piece in full.
I’ve been a journalist for about 15 years – I had about three years in local newspapers (Bucks Free Press and Cambridge News) before deciding to take a desk at a local publishing company and work as a freelancer.
In February I contacted Cambridge First with a proposal for a feature. The editor agreed to commission the feature, and also asked if I was interested in a few freelance shifts at the paper. I went along to have a chat about it.
It was then that I was told about the head of content job – I hadn’t been thinking of a full-time job, but the prospect of working for a new paper, providing competition to the established Cambridge News, was tempting. It was on my home patch (three minutes from home on a bike), where I had a lot of contacts, and there was a real appeal for getting out there and digging for news in my home city. So I expressed my interest, worked a few shifts at the paper, and was offered the job a week later.
I’d had some reservations about how strong the newspaper was, and asked for – and was given – assurances. I was told that Archant was totally committed to having a newspaper in Cambridge, that it would remain in the city, that the circulation was about to increase dramatically, and that it was a position with excellent prospects. So I gave notice on my rented desk, informed my clients that I was off to the world of steady work, and prepared myself for my new job.
At the end of my third week at Cambridge First, we were all called into a meeting and informed that the newspaper was going to be closed a week later and that most of us were at risk of redundancy. It was explained that the advertising revenues had never really been high enough to make a profit, and while it was admitted by the directors that the newspaper had been a great success editorially, it was not a success commercially.
While I cannot blame the editor who took me on, as the decision was clearly as much as a shock for her as it was for me, I find it completely inconceivable that nobody in the company knew of the plans. I cannot believe that directors were not even considering closing the paper less than three weeks before the announcement was made – in which case, how could they have allowed the editor to take on new staff?
I’ve been able to pick up a few bits of freelance work since – though nowhere near enough – and the one week’s redundancy pay offered by Archant isn’t going to go very far.
The really ironic thing is that all the sales people on the newspaper were found jobs elsewhere within Archant.