22 November 2014

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Union in call for answers over future of Midlands daily

The National Union of Journalists has called for assurances from newspaper bosses over the future of a Midlands daily following a series of staff cutbacks.

The Nottingham branch of the NUJ has sent a joint letter to Mel Cook, new editor of the Nottingham Post and Steve Auckland, chief executive of Northcliffe Media raising concerns about the reduction in the number of journalists at the title.

Picture editor Steve Mitchell has become the latest senior member of staff to leave the newspaper, and is not being replaced.

It follows the non-replacement earlier this year of deputy editor Steve Fletcher who left to edit the Lincolnshire Echo, assistant editor Martin Biddle, and two sports desk staff who also left.

Diana Peasey, the chair of the Nottingham NUJ branch said it was unclear whether the paper will continue as a daily title.

Said Diana: “The NUJ has asked both Mel Cook and Steve Auckland to update us on what is going to happen to the paper. In a city which has no other local daily, it is absolutely vital that the Post continues as a daily.

“Because of the cutbacks staff are working very long hours without any breaks. Shambolic and chaos is an understatement.  What is worse is that no-one knows what is going on or those in the know aren’t saying.

“The Post is indebted to its staff for keeping the paper going at the moment and to treat them like this is unacceptable.”

The union has also made a submission to the Office of Fair Trading on the Northcliffe proposal to take over the Nottingham Topper, questioning whether now is the most appropriate time to lodge a take-over bid.

Said Diana: “We have said we want the Topper to survive as a successful weekly and we want conditions imposed on the Post that the Topper will remain in operation.

“If Northcliffe can’t guarantee that then we would be opposed to the sale and suggest another buyer is brought in.”

Northcliffe Media has so far declined to respond publicly to the union’s comments but Nottingham publisher Steve Hollingsworth has sent them a private letter in response.  The OFT is due to announce a decision on the Topper deal on 22 May.

12 Comments

  1. Spanner

    “Suggest another buyer is brought in”

    Wake up !

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  2. Curious

    Did the Topper invite a bid as it is struggling – join the Post stable or bust – or is it a genuine Northcliffe offer to cash in on (or eliminate) a rival? Time will tell.

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  3. Moderniser, Nottingham

    These union reps live in cloud cuckoo land. Fewer people buy newspapers these days and advertisers are cutting back because they’re cash-strapped. So, titles lose money and have to save costs. Get real, you 1970s union dodos – people aren’t queuing up to buy into an industry that’s dying as the Internet takes over as the main source of news.

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  4. DAVE

    The Post is ready to move out of its current offices – I believe an announcement had been made as to where. Does anyone know if they’re still committeed to a presence in the city centre? – Thanks

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  5. Dutch Treat, The Midlands

    Quote: ” . . . an industry that’s dying as the internet takes over as the main source of news”. And where does all that internet news come from I wonder?

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  6. Curious

    Perhaps Moderniser could get real and use his local knowledge to answer the hostile bid question?
    Anti-union sentiment and/or a lack of spine is the reason regional reporters have remained so badly paid over the last 30 years.
    I’m told there was a time when it mirrored the police pay… but they have a strong union so we’re way behind them in pay scales.

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  7. Oldhack

    You really can tell the journalists from the: “I work in the meeja” types on here, can’t you?

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  8. John Bull

    Not so long ago I suggested that the Post would be going the same way as Mel Cook’s former paper and there was a queue of people accusing me of being negative and how wonderful the fortunes of the paper would now be.
    I wonder what they’re feeling now?
    And Moderniser? People still want news. The internet doesn’t provide local news, which was the cry from the newspaper bosses 15 years ago to herald in yet another round of cuts.
    Sport always played a big part in newspaper sales, and yes, you can find out how clubs like Forest and County have done, signings, gossip and the other gubbins on the net.
    But I believe that good journalists will out and people will buy newspapers to read the views of chief football writers – except Northcliffe give their work away – for free. That’s one way of making losses.
    Hyperlocal seems to be one of the latest buzzwords in management circles and that’s where papers like the Post used to reign supreme. Knowing everything that went on in their patch, with good reporters, a decent number of staff and a belief in the product.
    I hope people like Moderniser are not in the industry, because they are trying to reinvent the wheel. People still buy magazines, people still buy newspapers. Despite the internet. What papers have to supply is interesting, quality news. Simple really. I don’t understand why Northcliffe, Trinity Mirror et al, seem to think a shoestring budget, understaffing and low morale will give them products worth selling.

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  9. Ian James

    Moderniser has a point – newspapers are struggling and have to cut back. But Northcliffe are not consistent. For instance, the Nottingham Post has lost, with no replacements, its deputy editor, assistant editor, picture editor and two fine sports journalists while the neighbouring Derby Telegraph, which sells fewer papers, still has a deputy editor, etc. These cuts are on top of major redundancies over the past few years. Fair treatment for all, please.

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  10. Runaway Ed

    I often think a good chunk of current print business managements – and folk like Moderniser – don’t actually like their ‘core products’, newspapers. It might as well be loo rolls to them (actually they’d probably prefer that, as at least it’s a paper product without a sell-by date, that can’t be replaced by bits of the internet).
    In most industries you find it is upper and middle management who proudly live and breathe the company’s output, while there’s less enthusiasm in the wage slaves on the shopfloor. But as the newspaper industry crisis rolls on it is the journalists, and some ad reps, who are clutching the product to their chests, worrying about quality, standards and content.
    I believe that Moderniser and those of a similar mind are missing the point of the editorial wailing. They decry these people as 1970s dodos, while themselves being ostriches with heads in the sand.
    It is journalism, rather than racing to fill the holes round the ads with any old rubbish (I’m including the majority of ‘user generated content’ in this) that editorial staff are trying to save, not the ultimate method of delivery, ie print or web.
    Many local newspapers are being turned into bland, anaemic, look-alike products. The equivalent of dried-up doughnuts without the jam. Some have no editor to stamp an identity, no distinctive flavour, no special ingredients, reflected in editorial staffing numbers. Yes, Moderniser, online may be the future… but you know what I see right now? Feeble and often error-strewn newspapers morphing into similarly pathetic websites courtesy of conglomerate publishers who spout “LOCAL” while centralising and cutting.
    They will never monetise their web efforts to a degree whereby that income (plus a few quid from apps and exhibitions) will support the corporate tiers of their crumbling castles. Much of the recession-shrunk sits vac, motors and property ad spend has already run away to specialist, cheaper online advertising – and the big groups would get very little of this now if they didn’t have the newspaper names to pitch their sales spiel on.
    Once we have gone through these horrible years, most of the ‘dinosaur’ big groups, with their focus mainly on excel charts full of ever-increasing and implausible profit margins and subsequent bonuses, will have shrivelled or vanished, leaving a pile up of dead or dying newspapers and low-yield websites in their wake. I see this as a direct consequence of the route to web they have chosen.
    The good news is that there will be space for pockets of low-overhead, genuinely local print products with individual flavour and distinct dialect to flourish alongside lively websites with engaged audiences. Journalistic excellence will help them stand out and hold that audience.
    Neither will make a fortune, but if they can get enough responses for advertisers they will survive and provide a decent income for their owners. And, unlike much of the current print and online output, they will be valued by both their producer and users, and so serve their purpose.
    Dodo? No, I hope to be a phoenix.

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  11. Martin

    No-one except the poor people who work there wil weep when the Post goes weekly – assuming it survives at all. Put simply, it’s not good enough.

    Some of the local reporting isn’t bad these days – something to build on with a whole different business model: citizen reporting, relentlessly positive, specific campaigns, and not ever acting the big man. Oh and a decent website – if anything sums up the decline and demise of Northcliffe it’s that terrible, awful web template they’ve forced on all the locals. It’s like they have a death wish or something….

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  12. Gerald Merton

    Topper are crazy to sell now – it will be much more valuable to Northcliffe once the Post goes weekly.

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