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Fresh row erupts over 'missing headshots' splash

Journalists at a group of Yorkshire titles have accused managers of “making their papers look silly” by introducing a new production system.

Last week, we reported that the Sheffield Star had been forced to apologise after a cropping tool error resulted in 12 front-page headshots being partially obscured.

The National Union of Journalists is now blaming the error on the controversial new Atex content management system which the company is currently rolling out across its UK titles.

The NUJ claims the “unproven” system also resulted in another JP title, the South Yorkshire Times, appearing this month with blank spaces instead of stories.

Now the union is demanding action from Johnston Press “to stop making their local papers look silly.”

Northern organiser Chris Morley said: “We warned Johnston Press Group that Atex was unproven, untried and untested.

“We said it was being implemented to a totally unrealistic timescale with woefully inadequate training and support locally. The net result is a publishing disaster that is seriously impacting on the health and well being of members, putting some on the edge of physical breakdowns.

“Journalists are proud that their local papers are a vital part of local communities, so that the damage done to the quality of those papers by Johnston group’s ill-considered introduction of the Atex system is a matter of serious professional concern.”

Mr Morley called on those responsible for the decision to introduce Atex to “consider their position.”

Johnston Press declined to comment. The Star’s acting editor John Furbisher apologised to readers for the headshots error in a message on the paper’s website last week.

  • Below: the Star front page that caused the row


    Scribbler (16/04/2010 16:33:23)
    I decline to comment.

    MHmedia (16/04/2010 16:35:50)
    Tut! Looks like the only cropping tool was the one using the mouse. Does no-one check before printing any more?

    Redundant (16/04/2010 16:50:29)
    I’ve got an idea, get rid of Atex, bring back Quark, get all the subs back who have lost their jobs or taken ‘voluntary’ redundancy, papers will be good, clean, proper and worth the hard earned money of the public. Oh, and why they’re at it, get rid of all the idiotic management who introduced Atex, job done!

    regionalhack (16/04/2010 17:02:31)
    I wonder if Johnston Press actually paid for this seemingly untried software/system, or agrred to be a guinea pig customer??
    Seems pretty hopeless.
    I wouldn’t want Atex free off a computer mag disc!

    hilary (16/04/2010 17:12:05)
    MHmedia: You can check before printing till you’re blue in the face; if it looks right on screen and on proof, how else can you check (especially as pre-press is probably 100 miles away and the actual press 200 miles in the other direction…)?

    Hacked off hack (19/04/2010 09:54:40)
    regionalhack – No, JP didn’t pay for Atex, which is why we’ve got it.
    The Quark license was running out and instead of paying for new ones they used a freebie and now we’re paying for it.
    It’s now sickening that rather than those who made that awful decision being without a job, it’s the poor people they got rid of so unnecessarily.
    JP is currently a laughing stock, though not among those like me who are becoming increasingly stressed and ill as a result of the idiots who run the company.

    Angry JP worker (19/04/2010 10:39:20)
    Atex is awful – it’s slow, it keeps freezing and crashes at least once a day.
    It’s not fit for purpose!

    Onlooker (19/04/2010 11:42:28)
    I have worked with another Atex system. There were time when things did not appear in the paper as they looked on the final proof.
    I am sure that Atex will solve the bugs eventually in JP’s system – the trouble is that JP has been in too much of a rush to embrace an unproved set-up. The sensible thing would have been to trial it in one office for a year before expanding it throughout the group.

    Johnston Press Grindstone (19/04/2010 12:55:47)
    This front page is a ringing endorsement of Atex in all its glory. Will the know-nothings who aggressively pushed for it to be implemented take the flak? Nah – blame the people on the ground slogging away with a cracked, flawed system which constantly crashes and make for a hilarious sitcom if it wasn’t making people so ill, stressed, sick and fed up.

    Scoop (19/04/2010 15:10:59)
    This is nonsense.
    To say “the Quark license was running out” betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how software licensing works.
    Atex have a number of publishing systems and the one at JP has been used on the Evening Standard for years. It may have been configured badly, but that doesn’t write off the whole approach.
    As for the front page – it should have been proofed, and something that obvious should have been at least checked at the plate stage.
    This was a failure by people, not a system.

    Don (19/04/2010 16:33:06)
    I’m not sure the NUJ saying ‘we told you so’ is going to do members much good. After all, it’s hardly going to make management more open to what the NUJ is saying, is it?

    northernjourno (20/04/2010 11:24:17)
    We have been working with Atex at our paper for a few weeks now and we have had no problems with pictures like this. Atex is far from perfect but I think this will have a large chunk of human error in it.
    We have had nothing “disappear” from our pages and they have all come out as they appear on the proof.
    There have been some problems with ads but that is again a booking error