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Tindle in row over "supermarket freesheet" plan

Journalists at a North London weekly are protesting over plans to turn a 137-year-old paid-for title into what they term “a supermarket freesheet.”

Tindle Newspapers have decided to switch the Enfield Gazette to free publication after its paid-for circulation slumped to around 1,000.

But company bosses have denied suggestions that the move – which involves one potential redundancy – represents a vote of no confidence in the industry.

Tindle managing director Brian Doel said that the action was designed to safeguard the future of a title which had been run down by its previous owners.

The move has sparked particular controversy among staff because it came the week after proprietor Sir Ray Tindle gave a bullish assessment of the state of the industry.

Announcing the purchase of three titles in Essex to their staff he said: “All our weeklies are in fine fettle. You are joining a strong and flourishing weekly newspaper company.”

But one Enfield journalist told HoldtheFrontPage: “We’re all a bit shell shocked as Sir Ray has said he is a champion of local news and newspapers.”

“The Gazette is going to be turned into a supermarket free sheet, with no sports section, no arts section and only one or two news pages aimed at shoppers. The intention is to fill it with advertising coupons,” he added.

Now the National Union of Journalists’ chapel at the paper is to ballot its members on strike action after staff were told one of them would be losing their job in four weeks’ time.

A spokesperson said: “The atmosphere in the office is awful. Everyone is actively looking for work elsewhere and it’s a real shame as we have the most experienced team of reporters that we have had in years and as there are not many reporting jobs out there at the moment, it could well force someone out of the profession.

“We will be balloting for strike action to save the paper because it is a part of the borough’s heritage. When the papers were bought by Sir Ray Tindle last year, we were told that he he had ties with our area and supported local newspapers – he bought three more titles in Essex last week – and this news took us completely by surprise.

“We’ve asked all our contacts to write to him in the hope that we can reverse the decision and it has got a lot of people’s backs up already.”

Speaking to HoldtheFrontPage, Brian Doel accepted that there would be one redundancy but defended the plan.

“What we’re doing is ensuring the viability of the paper. We don’t want to see papers die,” he said.

“We are trying to keep the loss of staff down to one reporter and we are seeking a voluntary redundancy from the eight staff,” he added.

“The NUJ is kicking up a bit of a fuss. We’re not actually threatrening any compulsory redundancies at this stage.”


Credulous (26/09/2008 12:08:05)
This appears to mean that there will be only seven editorial staff left working on this 1,000-circulation title. No wonder the NUJ are launching a campaign about stress in the workplace.

anon fellow reporter in London (26/09/2008 13:58:54)
I find it difficult to believe that cutting one reporter is going to make a noticeable difference considering the rubbish salary a reporter makes, especially on a local. Perhaps those who came up with this idea should look elsewhere for over expenditures.

anon (26/09/2008 15:09:23)
Just to pick up on the tone of the first comment here – this article doesn’t mention that the eight staff in question actually work to produce four weekly newspapers across three London boroughs (not just the Gazette), with a combined circulation of 250,000 readers. So i expect workplace stress is indeed a justifiable issue.

anon (26/09/2008 21:24:27)
When will companies like Tindle realise what journos and those that actually work on the front line at local papers know and have been hearing from disgruntled former readers of their ailing papers for years – that you don’t ‘ensure the viability of a paper’ by cutting editorial costs – you merely ensure it dies a death by a thousand cuts, having thoroughly p****ed off what readers you do still have left in the process. What ailing local papers need is investment and a strong editorial direction that concurs with the wishes, interests, hopes and concerns of the people that matter most – its readership, established and potential. (No Tindle – not its management.) Unfortunately management decisions like this one – made by people often totally bewildered by and abstracted from the way 21st century newspapers actually work and fit into the local community, and certainly utterly out of touch with readers – have been the kiss of death for the industry for some years. What really stinks is that Tindle pretend to be champions of local news and journalism while all the while throttling it to death behind the scenes. Cost cutting by giants like Trinity Mirror on a grand scale is what brought papers like the Enfield Gazette to their knees in the first place. Why Tindle bought the publication if they didn’t intend to invest in it and reverse some of the dire mistakes made by their predecessors is a mystery. Until those at the top of the management food chain at newspapers like the Enfield Gazette – people who claim they ‘don’t want to see papers die’ – stop killing them slowly like this nobody is going to get anywhere. Through stunts like this one regional journalism is losing its most vital assets and its direct links to the public at large – its reporters. Their reader knowledge is without doubt worth a mint to the company – if only the company would learn to tap the reporter resource more effectively, not chuck it on the scrap heap in an effort to save what amounts to a paltry amount of ready cash in the grand scheme of things. All that will be left once all the journos are gone is a load of out-of-touch managers bickering among themselves over what coupons they think are going to get the punters going this week. While the punters defect to serious online local community forums and websites run by – guess who? – canny ex regional journos. There ARE local papers out there building their readerships back up, giving readers a good deal, working for their communities, hitting all the right notes, embracing new technology and surfing the wave of the credit crunch by changing their approaches to advertising to suit the economic climate. And pulling in new readers every week and keeping current ones ever loyal and happy – while, heavens above, making money in the process. They are not doing it by asset stripping papers of their journalists and giving readers baked bean coupons to cut out and keep. Wise up Tindle – this is a cracking mistake you are making here.

boss hog (28/09/2008 11:23:09)
the newspaper industry is on it’s knees. In south wales the echo has announced it is going to publish in morning meaning no more evening papers in whole of south wales and the argus is shedding more journalists. Where did it all go wrong?

fred bloggs (29/09/2008 09:00:58)
Get real – the journalism is so brilliant that the sale is down to a 1000 copies – hardly attractive to an advertiser. Why don’t the NUJ but the title and see for themselves how quickly they can sustain a loss making business – Cretins!!

Former Trinity employee (29/09/2008 13:35:20)
Perhaps Tindle might like to consider hiring a decent editor with some fresh ideas for Enfield!