In a press release published on its website today, the union claims the publisher is seeking an overall reduction of 16 posts across its Yorkshire business unit.
The union says 50 community representatives including local MPs, councillors, business groups and trade unionists have now backed a statement by by its Yorkshire Weekly News Group chapel voicing concern over the impact of the proposed cutbacks.
The chapel originally wrote to JP chief executive Ashley Highfield in November following a decision to axe four staff photographer roles in the YWNG division, which includes the Wakefield Express, Pontefract and Castleford Express, and the Dewsbury Reporter.
Now it has written to Ashley again highlighting the latest proposed job reductions, which includes the eight YWNG titles and 19 others.
A YWNG chapel spokeswoman said: “Our members believe passionately in the importance of local journalism but are being prevented from giving readers the level of news and sports coverage they deserve because of a lack of staff and investment in our papers – and any further jobs cuts will only add to this problem.
“The support we have received from the community shows that the wider public also values local journalism and the work our members do.”
The union claims that since November 2010, the company has closed seven of YWNG’s eight district offices and cut the number of editorial staff on the eight papers from 52 to 22.
In the latest letter, it questions how the papers will continue to cover local elections, council meetings and the courts or run campaigns if further cuts are implemented across the publishing unit’s 27 titles.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said: “There is a groundswell of people in local communities now realising the damage that has been – and is still – being done to local news and the implications of that for local life.
“The relentless cuts, reorganisations and redundancies that our members have had to contend with over many years must now come to an end. Instead there needs to be a new agenda of investment by the newspaper companies in journalism and quality news. That will be good not only for local communities but for the businesses themselves.”
A Johnston Press spokeswoman said: “We are continuing to restructure the newsrooms across West Yorkshire and it has been known for some time the changes that are being put in place.
“Like many other media organisations, we are transforming the way we operate. The ‘Newsroom of the Future’ initiative will free up journalists to concentrate more on harder news and the need to increase our digital content – reflecting what our audiences are wanting whilst ensuring we continue to reflect our communities with local, community content – either written or contributed.”