Now he has published a “long read” on the issue on the SubScribe journalism blog in which he claims that local journalism is “probably beyond saving” in its traditional form.
In response, Trinity Mirror has accused Gareth, who took voluntary redundancy from the Advertiser in June, of “misrepresenting” the paper and engaging in a “personal crusade” against the company.
In his latest piece, Gareth lays bare his reasons for deciding to leave the paper, weeks after being named Weekly Reporter of the Year at the Regional Press Awards for the fourth year running.
He reveals he asked to leave because he disagreed with the implementation of TM’s digital first ‘Newsroom 3.1′ initiative, which is in the process of being rolled-out across the company.
He wrote: “I asked to leave because I believe Newsroom 3.1 is the beginning of the end of the Advertiser as a newspaper. I’ve seen the impact of similar changes at Newsquest papers in south London and want no part of it.
“What is happening at my former paper is indicative of a wider problem undermining local journalism – to such an extent that it is probably beyond saving, at least in its traditional form.”
According to Gareth, all of the group’s editorial assistants were also made redundant overnight – including one with 16 years’ service who he claims was told she had lost her job over the phone while on a school run.
He also claimed the paper’s remaining journalists had been told to “make serious compromises to fundamental journalistic standards” and were being instructed to lift quotes from a rival paper.
Gareth admitted the Advertiser had not been “problem free” before TM’s takeover of the former Northcliffe and Local World title, referencing the departures of former editor Glenn Ebrey and long-serving local government correspondent Ian Austin last year.
He wrote: “Our editor left with no permanent job to go to when he was told by his Local World bosses that crime was going to be barred from the front page of the paper following complaints from commercial managers. The company would later replace a journalist of 45 years’ experience with two part-time reporters tasked with writing lists for the website.
“Similar issues have affected local and regional newspapers up and down the country. Some, including some owned by Trinity Mirror, have been closed or become online-only.
“While taken individually, these problems might seem inconsequential, the end result has been to create an industry that, as a whole, is unable to adequately fulfil the role of local journalism – to provide a public service, to be a vital part of democratic accountability, to be a force for change for causes that would otherwise go unnoticed and to chart social history.”
SubScribe’s owner, Liz Gerard, had earlier published a blog post of her own in which she echoed some of Gareth’s criticisms, for instance the consolidation of multiple titles under single editors.
“There are many reasons why local papers are struggling, but the consolidation of operations that take journalists physically ever further from their readers must be a key factor,” she wrote.
In repsonse, a Trinity Mirror spokeswoman said: “None of the claims made by Gareth Davies stacks up. Every one of his points is either a misinterpretation of basic standard practice or completely untrue.
“It is clear he is intent on misrepresenting the Croydon Advertiser and Trinity Mirror, the people who work here and the journalism we produce as part of a personal crusade. We, meanwhile, will continue with our strategy of evolving to ensure a future for our titles.”