1 November 2014

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Director at regional publisher sacked for faking sales figures

A circulation director at a regional publisher has been dismissed for gross misconduct just a week before he was due to retire after the company said he falsified sales figures.

Archant Anglia circulation director Don Williamson was set to take early retirement at the end of this month but was dismissed this week for overstating sales figures at titles in Norfolk.

An internal memo, sent to staff by chief executive Adrian Jeakings and seen by HTFP, said that an investigation had been carried out when it was found that some numbers in the draft ABC figures for the first half of the year might be wrong.

It said Don had been away on holiday at the time but it was discovered that he had falsified some copy sales and and he was dismissed after being called in to explain himself.

The circulation figures for the titles were corrected before the final sales were submitted, so will not affect the publication of the next set of ABC figures due out next week.

But the company said it is reviewing figures from the second half of 2011, when Archant titles the Norwich Evening News and Eastern Daily Press were among the few regional dailies to record an increase in sales.

The memo said: “It is with deep disappointment that I have to tell you that we have found some problems with our circulation numbers in Norfolk.

“As many of you will know, Don Williamson, the Archant Anglia circulation director was due to retire early at the end of this month. After his leaving party three weeks ago, he went on holiday, returning earlier this week.

“When he was away we found that some numbers in the draft ABC return for the first half of 2012 might be wrong.

“An investigation was carried out and it became clear that Don had falsified some copy sales. These were corrected before final ABC numbers were submitted, so the numbers to be reported next week will be clean. We can’t yet say what the numbers will be, but we do not expect circulations to be out of line with others in our industry.

“Following Don’s return from holiday, he was called in to explain the position, which he freely did. The outcome of this is that the company had no choice but to dismiss him for gross misconduct.

“He has not benefited financially from his actions. The only titles where sales have been overstated are in Norfolk.

“We believe that this activity started in the second half of last year and we are working with ABC to review some bulk copies recorded in our ABC returns for the second half of 2011. These will be reported on in due course.

“We will be shortly be announcing the appointment of Don’s successor who is a senior circulation figure in one of the major regional newspaper groups. His appointment was made in July in anticipation of Don’s retirement, before any of these problems had been identified.”

The ABC figures for the second half of last year show that sales at the Evening News increased by 7.5pc to 18,931, while the EDP saw its circulation rise 0.7pc to 59,802.

An Archant spokesman said: “We can confirm that a senior circulation manager has been dismissed following an internal investigation. We are working with ABC in reviewing the reporting of certain bulk copies in the second half of 2011.”

5 Comments

  1. Freddie

    Is it only me who feels this is a ludicrous over reaction, devoid of sensitivity. Across this industry sales directors and others are constantly cutting corners to keep the thing afloat while the suits in London wield their axe yet insisting the operation keeps going as before. The guy was about to retire – just let him go quietly. He probably gave a lifetime of service (I admit I don’t know for sure) and one blemish ruins it all. Pity there’s no sanction for gross incompetence, gross insensitivity (all the mds who fail to attend redundancy meetings, you know who you are).
    Anyway, the figures are always bogus. I worked at a paper which told advertisers 6.5 people read every copy, giving us a readership of about 200,000. Let’s be honest, no one believed that.

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  2. Steve Dyson

    In the old days, people were derided for over-stating too little!

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  3. Tony Barrett, Norwich

    Of course the sales figures are/were distorted. When you can at 5.30am purchase the Evening News, Which is sometimes on the shelf before the Daily Paper the EDP. Contains much of the same local news as the EDP why would you buy both. I used to have a choice if i finished work early or late, went to work early or late, i could chose which paper to buy. Now they come out at roughly the same time there is no choice so i buy neither. It is not Rocket Salad to work out, that if the Daily and the Evening papers come out at the same time sales will plummet!

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  4. furryoldgreybadger

    I have known Don for 30 years, I appointed him as my deputy during my time as Circulation Director at the Leicester Mercury in the early 80’s. He was loyal to me and always had the potential to go further, he did just that. After a series of promotions within Northcliffe he left to join Archant. Don also came to my wedding, he is a decent bloke.

    No single person can distort sales figures in this day and age, others must have known! Even if Don did play a part, the way he has been treated is very shabby indeed. Archant management should be ashamed of themselves. The matter should have been delat with internally and with some tact.

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  5. TjM

    Totally agree , It should have been dealt with as an internal matter and the poor chap (Scape – Goat) should have been allowed to retire!!!!

    Perhaps the overall figures across these titles should be investigated!

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