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Vote of no confidence in regional press editor and Newsquest management

Furious union members at The Northern Echo have issued a vote of no confidence in its editor and the management.

Last month the Newsquest morning title announced it was scrapping three of its five editions and axing four reporters’ jobs through non-replacement and early retirement.

A further reporter’s position will also be lost at sister weekly the Darlington and Stockton Times and the Echo’s print deadline has moved back from 1am to 10.30pm.

Now, in an e-mail leaked to HoldtheFrontPage, the Darlington chapel of the National Union of Journalists has issued votes of no confidence in Newsquest North East MD David Coates, Newsquest chairman and chief executive Paul Davidson and Craig A. Dubow, president of Newsquest’s American parent company Gannett.

A further vote of no confidence was agreed in Northern Echo editor Peter Barron “in relation to the way the information was relayed to staff”.

The 138-year-old Northern Echo used to produce five editions covering Darlington, South West Durham, Teesside, Durham North and North Yorkshire.

The new two edition structure, which started on July 7, covers the north and south of the North-East region.

The e-mail said: “The chapel feels that their short-sighted and ill-conceived actions to bolster unrealistic financial targets – despite still generating a healthy profit level – will irrevocably harm the future quality, profitability and reputation of The Northern Echo.

“Their actions will further:

* Drastically reduce the ability to respond to late-breaking or developing stories after 10.30pm.

* Reduce the amount of in-depth community news to be carried by The Northern Echo and, in turn, the Darlington and Stockton Times, Durham Times and Advertiser Series, which uses the same copy pool.

* See the loss of 60 pages per week specific to the old edition areas which will be replaced by 24 news pages spread over six days. The future of these pages are not guaranteed and members fear these will be lost in future cost cutting.

* Reduce quality of the product by removing ability to change editions if errors are spotted after first deadline.

“The decision was taken in haste without any prior consultation with staff or the NUJ nor, it would seem, any detailed thought as to how to best implement the changes.

“This was reflected by an announcement days earlier that The Northern Echo would go to just one edition.

“The editorial department has already had to cope with early retirements, amalgamation of job titles and unfilled vacancies over the past two years, despite having to rise to the new challenges of video and the internet.

“Members feel this so called latest ‘review’ is a beginning, rather than an end, to further cost cutting and the chapel has agreed to ballot for industrial action should any compulsory redundancies be made within the editorial department.”

Both editor Peter Barron and managing director David Coates were unavailable for comment.