1 September 2014

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Editor axed after weekly posts 2.1pc sales rise

A weekly editor was told his role is to be made redundant the day after his paper posted a 2.1pc sales rise in the latest ABC figures.

The Whitby Gazette was one of only 13 paid-for weekly titles across the whole of the UK to record year-on-year increases in circulation in the second half of 2012 according to the figures published last Wednesday.

But its editor, Jon Stokoe, is facing redundancy after publishers Johnston Press decided to combine his role with that of Scarborough News editor Ed Asquith.

Ed, who also edits the Malton and Pickering Mercury and Filey Mercury, is set to take charge of the Gazette later once a formal consultation on Jon’s role has been concluded later this month.

In addition, JP is proposing to sell the Gazette’s iconic offices, overlooking Whitby Harbour, with reporters and reception staff based at a smaller office in the town.

As well as the Gazette editor role, it is understood that one photographic role across the Gazette and its sister title is also at risk.

A Johnston Press spokesman would only say that they were currently going through a consultation process with some members of staff in Whitby.

However staff at the title have confirmed the proposed changes, with one insider describing the situation at the paper as “complete and utter turmoil.”

Jon, 38, has edited the Gazette for the past two years, following an 18 month stint at acting editor.

He has lived in Whitby since he was a boy and first joined the paper as a trainee reporter in 1995.

The Scarborough News, which moved from daily to weekly last year, itself posted an 11.5pc fall in circulation in last week’s figures when compared to the average weekly sale in the month after the frequency change last May, although its current average weekly sale is up 49pc on its last audited figure as a daily.

Its circulation now stands at 14,806 while the Gazette sells an average 9,540.

44 Comments

  1. Cut, paste, repeat

    Ah, the first signs of spring – JP beginning its now traditional wave of job cuts.

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  2. Media Pundit, Wakefield

    Hate to think what happens to editors whose paper suffers a fall in circulation. Oh wait, that’s just about all the rest of JP weeklies! The nightmare continues.

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  3. Planet JP

    Well done JP, another masterstroke. What a reward for Whitby’s ABC success.

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  4. Media Mogul

    Nice work JP! If this is how you reward dedicated, hardworking members of staff who continually increase sales of the paper, then his help the rest of them. Think this editor deserves reinstating and those above questioning! Unbelievable!

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  5. CURMUDGEON, TAMESIDE GREATER MANCHESTER

    People who enjoy meetings and use the words ‘consultation process’ instead of giving an honest, straight answer, should not be in charge of anything!

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  6. redundant hack, lancashire

    Good old JP. I was acting editor of a weekly that put on circulation over 6 months. I didn’t even get short-listed for the permanent job. They are great managers and motivators

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  7. Glad I'm out of it, Cardiff

    What a stark, staring, loony decision, just typical of the mindset of rich boardroom suits who haven’t got a clue of what local journalism is about. Ed’s job is definitely a poisoned chalice; with Scarborough, Pickering, Malton and now Whitby to contend with, he just won’t have time to concentrate on the serious stories which should be the local newpaper’s role. As always, it’s the readers who will suffer.

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  8. JP - Joke Publishers

    They won’t be happy until there’s no-one left…

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  9. Charles

    If that’s what you get for a rise in sales, I’d be very nervous if I were the editor of some newspapers not too far from there which are running at nearly 20 per cent down…

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  10. House Rules

    Circulation tanking, let’s sack a popular editor who knows the town inside out and who has delivered a circulation increase for his paper. Sounds like JP thinking to me.

  11. Planet JP

    I’m not clear. Is the Whitby editor being made redundant or having to apply, along with the Scarborough editor, for a new position of combined editor? I thought JP had stopped all this “life is not local” “let’s get rid of lots of editors” nonsense last year.

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  12. mysticmeg, midlands

    One reporter-cum-snapper filling holes on a website is the future, with local papers dead and swallowed into two page slots on one big county-wide weekly the hidden agenda.

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  13. WG reader, Whitby

    This is horrific news. So sad for a paper which has defied the odds and an editor with the town and the paper in his blood. Shame on Johnston Press.

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  14. MarionHaste, Whitby

    This is terrible news for Whitby and a shocking loss of a cracking and dedicated editor. I’ve shaken my head many times in recent years and months at the staff JP has thrown away through its shocking mismanagement of its newspaper interests. If I were a shareholder and these policies had produced such appalling results, I would be up in arms. They are killing the goose which once laid them such golden eggs. Is no-one going to ask why?

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  15. Lost for words, North East

    This editor is one of the kindest men I had the fortune to meet. His dedication to journalism has put this paper at the heart of the town. Why has he been made redundant when the Scarborough editor’s titles have lost readership? It is completely bizarre. Goodbye to one of the best local editors there could be.

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  16. Laura Anderson, WHITBY

    This is awful news, the Gazette is an important part of the community and Jonny and his team do a wonderful job as the increase in circulation figures show. Every single member of the team cares about what goes on in the community and are keen to promote events and issues that are important to the residents. Thoughts are with the WG team

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  17. Steve Dyson

    Unless there’s something going on that we’re unaware of, I reckon Jon Stokoe will very soon be appointed as editor by a n other group watching closely…!

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  18. Former Journo

    It’s all about money.

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  19. Tiddlywinks

    Luckily Whitby isn’t due to go through a dreaded relaunch process imminently. Hold on, my mistake, it is! Unbelievable.

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  20. Oliver, Nottingham

    I feel sorry for Mr Stokoe, but a circulation increase of around 200 copies? Sorry, but big deal! When will journalists start to realise that revenue is all that matters now. If he’s missed those targets and, let’s face it, most papers are doing, there is probably no way he can argue his case. I agree wholeheartedly that it’s a sad day for newspapers when this is the case, but it’s the truth.

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  21. Brian Allanson, Robin Hood's Bay

    So they’re giving the role to someone who’s paper posted an 11.5% drop in sales. Sounds like someone at JP is somewhat clueless. Also, yet more of Whitby’s independence being handed on a plate to Scarborough – maybe it’s time for Whitby to make a Unilateral Declaration of Independence!

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  22. Words fail me

    This is utterly ludicrous. If they can do this to an editor who has pulled off figures that are almost as miraculous as Moses parting the Red Sea, then every team in JP better watch their backs – especially those who have an office lease up for renewal in the near future, because it’s obvious that the firm are making savings at all costs now, regardless of the logic, or lack thereof, of such measures.

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  23. Typo, News in Brief Column

    I do hope Jon stays within the industry. Only met him once and he stood out as being an absolute star, someone who cared about local newspapers. Typical of the big chains to get rid of someone truly good.

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  24. Curious

    If JP can’t make a paper like the Whitby Gazette work then they have got themselves in a whole heap of trouble.

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  25. Billy Bewildered

    I’m sick to the back teeth of JP getting rid of one person and expecting someone else to do the job on top of their existing role.

    Quality inevitably suffers and stress levels go through the roof. And yet the keep on doing it and expect the papers to get better.

    For all the spin they put on everything, and for all the fancy new websites, kit and so on, JP are becoming an absolute disgrace of an organisation with no genuine clue as to how to improve their core products. Getting rid of the very people who can do just that is not the answer.

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  26. Colin Brittain, Whitby and proud of it

    This is absolutely disgraceful, another example of an iconic position going to Scarborough.
    Whitby deserves its own paper and local staff, doesn’t this other editor have enough to do already? How is it that we are handing over the reins to an editor who is not local who with all his existing commitments will very rarely be in Whitby. Our present editor is welcoming and enthusiastic and given how much he has given to the paper, starting as a trainee reporter in 1995, it is appalling how he is being treated.
    It is shocking that the gazette offices are going to be lost, and one can only wonder whom might now take over the building given the current financial climate. I don’t see a very rosy future for the paper and these moves will only harm the papers standing.

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  27. Steve Dyson

    Oliver, Nottingham… are you a Chinese-style blog-poster in the pay of JP?

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  28. Fresh coriander

    So this is wrong on so many levels. Getting rid of a great local editor and a brilliantly-located office in the name of short-term profit is nuts but so very JP.
    But let’s not get carried away by the sales ‘success’ of the Whitby paper or the “decline’ of the Scarborough paper. Two completely different beasts. Smaller papers go through peaks and troughs in sales and you can’t always say it has anything to do with quality content. I was very close to a paper of similar size to Whitby which blazed a sales ‘success’ for two years, putting it in the top 10 for increases. The editor was the laziest so-and-so and the content was cut-and-paste nonsense. Subs had to scrape, beg, borrow, steal and invent to fill. Yet it out- performed all other papers in the stable, for a while anyway. Could have been more people moving to the area, could have been promotions and offers, could have been the…ahem…adverts and houses for sale.
    Know this is not the case with Jon and Whitby so I am not drawing a direct comparison. Just saying local paper sales trends can’t always be explained in journalistic terms and a sales snapshot at any given time is not always a reliable indicator of quality.
    As a general comment, removing editors like Jon, and centralising control miles away on someone who may have as many as 20 papers under his/her wing, is insanity for the long-term health of the industry.

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  29. House Rules

    @PlanetJP – no the editor at Whitby is being made redundant. The editor at Scarborough is the editorial director of the group.

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  30. Oliver, Nottingham

    Hardly. Just a realist about the industry now and where it’s all heading. There are clearly more sad times ahead but I guess it’s what some are desperately, and hopefully, calling an ‘evolution’. I just think your reviews of everyone’s hard work and efforts need to reflect that too.

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  31. Ex-JP, UK

    This is really sad when an editor has given his all to the paper. Last year when the templates came in Ashley Highfield was talking up how readers loved the new look papers etc etc. Sadly, it was a short-lived love affair and I’m surprised to see how circulation has dropped 16 or 17% on some of them.

    There are fewer journalists in the business now so that’s one explanation for this decline. Are there any others?

    Report this comment

  32. Jimmy Riddle, Jimbleberry

    THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

    GIVE THAT MAN HIS JOB BACK.

    WHITBY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING.

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  33. Media Mogul

    Seems Ashley Highfield ought to be looking at Ed Asquith who is down 11.5% on his sales yet Jon is up! You are ruining a good local paper. Locals are loyal but will end up not buying it now. Well done JP, hope Jon and his family will be ok! #saveourstokoe

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  34. P Stoff

    this tale has no surprises; JP are acting in character. It doesn’t matter that Gazette sales have risen and the S-News sales have fallen 11.5% in six months, from 60,000 a week as a daily to 15,000 a week as a weekly. JP has a long and totally undistinguished track record for this kind of behaviour. Good luck Jonny.

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  35. Planet JP

    #saveourstokoe indeed. Or perhaps #stokoeforYP

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  36. Scribbler

    Time for a campaign, Whitby folk! Rise up and DEFEND your local newspaper! Bombard Johnston Press with your fears and concerns. Call for Jon to be reinstated! Get the TV stations on the case… the MP, whoever. Walk naked through the streets if you have to.
    Don’t let ‘em get away with it!!!

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  37. North-East journalist

    Sadly typical of the crass way JP treats loyal staff.
    Jon’s a decent guy who was strung along even before he got the Whitby job permanently.
    I’ve also heard on the grapevine of other senior JP staff within the region who are being pushed to breaking point by the demands being placed on them
    Anyone familiar with Whitby will know how distinct it is from Scarborough. It’s a place with its own character and locals proud of where they are live. They also don’t like being ruled from Scarborough – ask the borough council. Therefore to also close the newspaper office also makes no sense. Expect sales of the Gazette to go into reverse once word gets round.
    Good luck also to the poor sods left behind who no doubt will have to flog themselves silly to continue to get the paper out. I just hope they won’t have to travel to and from Scarborough each day. Not the best of the journeys – particularly in winter!

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  38. E Wilson

    Perhaps someone else should set up a rival paper and bring Jon Stokoe in as its editor as it appears the strength of Whitby residents’ feelings against JP would see the Gazette’s ultimate demise. Hopefully he will be headhunted for his talents and make someone’s else’s local rag a popular and profitable read. He deserves better treatment!

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  39. ulysses, Whitby

    This is a sad day for journalism and Whitby. There is more to this decision than just the sacking of Jon, a great editor with the community at his heart. This will cause a backlash amongst it’s subscribers which is what JP want. They will then be able to declare that Whitby is unprofitable, close the paper and sell off a highly lucrative piece of real estate.

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  40. Observer

    Interesting thought from E Wilson. Just musing that if all the staff on the Whitby Gazette handed their notice in and then next month launched the alternative Whitby Gazette it would probably enjoy massive support from both readers and advertisers. Jon would have his job back, the staff would make a few quid and JP would be stuffed. Again.

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  41. Run Away Ed

    Dreadful decision and at least JP are being rightly embarrassed and examined.
    They are possibly the worst when it comes to this sort of thing, although not alone as the calibre of management within the regional press is now very low (lack of commercial expertise and the spark than can inspire staff). It’s why I got out. Those who’ve stayed and tried so hard to keep the papers and websites up to some kind of acceptable standard for readers have my admiration.

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  42. JP Escapee

    Saw the headline for this story and just KNEW it would be a Johnston Press owned title. Not surprised. Just glad I jumped ship.

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  43. Michael

    Where’s the “loyalty” ????

    You do not get rid of those performing well, you get rid of those under-performing !

    And to add insult to injury – for Jon to be replaced by the Editor of the Scarborough Evening News, this is appalling, we need our local paper fighting the lack of support from Scarborough Borough Council, this isn’t going to happen with somebody who “has roots” in that town !

    Mr Stokoe must not leave the Whitby Gazette, if he does I will never buy the paper again.

    Everyone who wishes to retain Mr Stokoe must make a similar pledge !!!

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  44. Francis H. King, Sleights

    I would like to lend my support to the many other people who remain as appalled as I am at how comfortable JP seem abusing Mr. Stokoe the present editor of the Gazette. I was delighted when he was allocated the role of editor.

    He was the acting editor for a long time no doubt saving the owners a tidy sum. No true Whitby resident will agree with the decision to chop and change the future of the newspaper.

    Why is the paper in such a predicament given its sales increase this is reason enough to leave well alone, if it aint broken!!!

    The Gazette and its offices are an important part of the town’s history. Johnstone Press should be ashamed. I find it amusing that given such a huge story that they have remained silent how two faced is that.

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