The National Union of Journalists has called on Johnston Press to give assurances over the editorial quality of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post after it was announced that their editorships are to be combined.
Yesterday’s move by the regional publisher, which has placed YP editor Peter Charlton and YEP counterpart Paul Napier at risk of redundancy, was condemned as “shocking” by the union.
Union representatives have now been invited to meet Helen Oldham, managing director of the Yorkshire publishing unit, who announced the decision.
The union said it would be using the meeting to ask her reconsider the changes which it said would have consequences for all staff at the Leeds-based titles.
A statement issued by the YP/YEP joint NUJ chapel said: “The announcement that the roles of the editors of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post are to be combined is viewed with great concern by members.
“Officials of the joint chapel call on Johnston Press management to provide full details of what this move will entail and where it will lead. We want cast iron guarantees that the editorial quality of the two publications will be safeguarded.
“Under Johnston Press’s control the editorial staff of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post has been subjected to repeated redundancies which have reduced the workforce by 40 per cent.
“The Yorkshire Evening Post has been reduced to two editions which are printed the night before going on sale. The Yorkshire Post also produces fewer editions. Editorial quality has inevitably suffered.
“At a time of great change within the industry, the decision to risk the loss of an experienced editor, on top of the job losses that have already occurred in the editorial department, can only be viewed with alarm.
“We hope that the wider community that these titles have served for many years will share our concern at a time when Yorkshire needs a strong and coherent voice to promote the interests of the region and those who live in it.”
Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley added: “The editorial teams in Johnston Press’s titles have been subjected to constant job attrition over a number of years and our members’ ability to produce quality journalism has been severely eroded in that time.
“These latest cuts are extremely worrying, not only in the signal they give about the company’s commitment to quality and localism in its content, but also the brutal treatment to which staff are being subjected. The NUJ will not stand idly by where its members are attacked in this way.”
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “These Yorkshire papers have a proud tradition of serving their community. Forty years ago the Yorkshire Evening Post had a staff of 1,350, eight editions and a daily circulation of 230,000.
“Today there are fewer than 400 and it has two editions a day. Further cuts and attacks on editorial is not the panacea for increased circulation.”
Yesterday’s company statement by Helen Oldham said the changes were being made “as part of the overall objective of creating a more efficient management structure.”