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Senior executives depart in fresh JP shake-up

Two senior Johnston Press executives have today left the company in a shake-up which sees four subsidiaries combined into a single business unit.

Mark Rodgers, managing director of Sheffield Newspapers which publishes The Star, left his role this morning with immediate effect.

He was closely followed out of the door by Paul Bentham, managing director of South Yorkshire Newspapers, which includes the Doncaster Free Press, Worksop Guardian and South Yorkshire Times.

Both subsidiaries are being brought together into a single business unit along with Wilfred Edmunds Ltd, publisher of the Derbyshire Times, and North Notts Newspapers, publishers of the Mansfield Chad.

John Bills, previously group projects director for JP, moves to the role of managing director of Sheffield Newspapers and South Yorkshire Newspapers and will head the new combined unit.

Dawn Sweeney, MD of Wilfred Edmunds and North Notts Newspapers keeps her role, but will report to Mr Bills.

Chief operating officer Danny Cammiade said in a statement: “Following a review of the newspaper companies in South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire, it is proposed to form one operating unit comprising Wilfred Edmunds Ltd, North Notts Newspapers Ltd, South Yorkshire Newspapers Ltd and Sheffield Newspapers Ltd.

“As a result, John Bills is appointed managing director of South Yorkshire Newspapers Ltd in addition to his responsibilities as managing director of Sheffield Newspapers Ltd.

“Dawn Sweeney, managing director of Wilfred Edmunds Ltd and North Notts Newspapers Ltd, will report direct to John Bills. John Bills will report to Nick Mills, divisional managing director Midlands.”

In earlier statements Mr Cammiade announced that both Mr Rodgers and Mr Bentham had relinquished their positions with immediate effect.

Mr Bentham had been in the news earlier this year after a leaked memo to editors and senior journalists, setting out new guidelines following the introduction of the Atex content management system.

The memo included the line: “[Editors] should not continue with the old practise of reading every story. Editors should evaluate the risk for each story based on content and the seniority of the journalist and act accordingly.”

It sparked a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission from the National Union of Journalists and a letter from the PCC to Johnston Press requesting an explanation of the new rules.

The PCC later announced it would be taking no action over the complaint.

Mr Bills joined Johnston Press as acting MD of Premier Newspapers in Milton Keynes in 2008 before taking on the group projects role at the company’s head office in Edinburgh later that year.

He was regional managing director of Trinity Mirror Midlands until october 2007, but left that job after leading an unsuccessful management buyout bid for the Birmingham Post and Mail and Coventry Telegraph.

19 comments

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  • December 15, 2010 at 3:14 pm
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    Mr Bentham was a great MD who did not deserve to lose his job. Most staff where informed in person not by telephone calls as stated above. It is a great shame that this man who gave so much has lost his job.

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  • December 15, 2010 at 4:18 pm
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    Yes, we can tell you work in advertising as you don’t know the difference between “where” and “were”. Maybe this is the new JP way forward – a night of the long knives for highly paid execs. And maybe Cinderella journalists will make a comeback to turn out decent publications that people want to buy.

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  • December 16, 2010 at 8:49 am
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    May I as an old (!!) lady pass comment on newspapers? I do work in newspapers but I am not a journalist. Over the last few years I have watched the way in which standards have dropped. In my area, people know what I do and they say to me ‘The …….. is such an awful paper now. It is full of errors and I don’t buy it’. I noticed this happening when subbing was centralised and taken out of the hands of the ‘old timers’ who in some instances had been doing it for years. Spelling mistakes now flourish like confetti and the grammar is awful. A caption under one picture read ‘This is the car of her and her husband’. Another caption read ‘Mrs Blogs is sat by her painting’. Sat! aaaargh Advertising is also sprinkled with errors. Recently I read ‘Parent’s Evening’. Only one parent? I feel saddened that the once glorious world of fast paced, accurate, punchy writing is sliding into oblivion. I see young journalists working their socks off, but unforuantely the back up teams have gone and in many cases they are left to do jobs for which they are not trained. RIP local papers.

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  • December 16, 2010 at 10:30 am
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    Long live the Benth.

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  • December 16, 2010 at 10:57 am
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    Anyone seen the JP share price? methinks you ain’t seen nothing yet come 2011. Never have I hoped more that I will be wrong. Its such a shame that the good people go and the talentless thrive. Glad I I don’t work full time in this industry.

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  • December 16, 2010 at 11:17 am
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    Emma – that’s the main reason I left regional press editorial management. I was embarrassed and could not find a way to put it right under ‘new working models’. Standards are so low. It’s a terrible shame.

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  • December 16, 2010 at 11:49 am
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    Emma, I agree with everything you say about standards dropping, but I’m not sure it matters anymore. Even when we had subs, some people still claimed that local papers were full of errors and sales still declined. The generation brought up with text messages, e-mail and social networking has brought about the biggest drop in standards and, unfortunately, the success of one or two hyperlocal websites has shown that it’s now not all about perfect grammar and punctuation. Yes, the Grammar Nazis are now having a field day, but the vast majority of people who don’t care about an incorrect apostrophe or tense are still potential customers with valid opinions. I’ve heard newsdesks take such a patronising tone with some people, just because they’ve sent an e-mail littered with spelling mistakes or their language is full of slang. This is wrong, wrong, wrong in my book. It makes them feel like the papers don’t care which, as a result, means they don’t care about the papers. Anyone who feels compelled enough to write to or call their local newspaper about a story should have be respected as much as anyone else. So, why are more people turning to Google, Facebook and Twitter for their news? Because they can digest, comment and discuss stories with anyone they wish – they have a voice. Newsrooms have spent far too long trying to dictate an agenda of ‘worthy’ stories with quotes from officials and experts, but not long enough on giving people a place where their opinions can be herd (sic).

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  • December 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm
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    Former sub: you are too defeatist. If standards are allowed to slip – and boy, Emma is so right! – they go on slipping until the printed word becomes unintelligible. People have written rubbish grammar and so on for centuries, but in private communication, and as non-professional communicators. The professionals would never have dreamed of allowing such bad English to get into print. It’s only because everyone can now get into the public domain that standards have been seen publicly to slip – so why should the lowest common denominator suddenly become the norm? Why should our newspapers suddenly read like a shopping list? Moreover, rubbish grammar etc causes misunderstanding, and that can be dangerous. Incidentally, i find the term grammar Nazi insulting and it doesn’t help to imply that we are somehow infringing human rights and democracy by wanting to keep written English up to a certain standard!

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  • December 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm
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    The decline in standards of writing and grammar parallel the declining standards in editorial coverage. As budgets are slashed, reporters become responsible for filling the papers, rather than finding the best, most probing stories. Court reporting, with the exception of the largest cases, is discarded, as is reporting on council meetings. Some papers perform miracles with the limited workforces they have, but it isn’t possible to deliver a paper which rivals those from the past when there are three reporters rather than 10. As a result, the readers of the past grow disillusioned with the paper, bemoaning the increase in advertising pagination and the decrease in investigative, comprehensive reportage. The younger generation, meanwhile, has grown up feeling like local news is unfashionable and insignificant to them – no doubt turned off by the look and feel of the papers, which are clearly not intended for them. So, rather than address any of these issues and work out how papers can adapt and survive, bosses slash costs to ensure they reach their profit margins.

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  • December 16, 2010 at 2:02 pm
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    Whenever I see the name John Bills in an industry statement it always seems to be in close proximity to the names of one or two other senior executives who are “leaving the company with immediate effect.” Strange that, isn’t it?

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  • December 16, 2010 at 4:04 pm
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    Well, I opened a can of worms here. Yes, I accept that the world of news has become very complex and there is a vast choice of sources of news. However, I really do not feel that such a drop of standards can be acceptable. Some of the errors are truly shocking. There is no excuse for spelling errors in a paper. I will not accept the lowest common denominator. I know that journalists now have a remit to ‘fill the paper’. At one time you could always see a journalist around at a ‘happening’. This no longer applies. A journalist told me a while ago that they seem to spend their time re -jigging press releases. I am an older person looking at the past with slightly rose tinted glasses.I used to love seeing a cub reporter nervously interviewing people with his/her shorthand notebook at horse shows and other events. I must learn that I have to move on! Personally, I hate Twitter and I have never got involved with that side of things.

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  • December 17, 2010 at 9:28 am
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    You can only speak as you find and I found the Benth to be friendly and approachable. Wishing him good luck for the future.

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  • December 17, 2010 at 11:54 am
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    Paul Bentham worked for JP for 30+ years. In that time he must have made millions for Freddy and co. I worked with Paul for a long time – he pushed his execs hard, but he pushed them honestly, and fairly. There are a lot of crooks out there – he is not one of them. Paul and Mark Rodgers have a wealth of knowledge, understanding and most importantly – contacts. These two will be back. JP just want to hope they don’t seek retribution for the sh!tty manner in which they treated their combined 50-odd years of service. Good luck to you both.

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  • December 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm
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    The Benth was a great MD – very well-liked and respected by all at SYN. All the best for the future Paul.

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  • December 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm
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    I’m seriously disappointed that Paul Bentham has gone. In my view he was a tremendous MD and I’m sure he’ll be back in a top job very soon.

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  • December 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm
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    I was shocked to hear of Paul Bentham’s departure. He was a marvellous MD – very approachable. The very best of luck for the future Paul, you deserve it.

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  • December 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm
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    Wrekked Train – “all SYN staff?” Speak for yourself!

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  • December 20, 2010 at 9:39 am
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    @not all – Maybe you’ll appreciate the Benth if you end up with someone to REALLY moan about. I hope you don’t.

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  • December 20, 2010 at 10:02 am
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    AV – maybe but “all” SYN staff then, but 99.9% of them.

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