Johnston Press announced plans earlier this month to shut five newspaper offices in Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, resulting in the equivalent of 4.5 full-time posts being lost.
Now the NUJ Derby and Burton branch has written objecting to the closure of the Matlock Mercury and the Ripley & Heanor News offices and calling for the “ill-thought-out plan” to be reconsidered.
The letter to the chief executive highlights how Matlock was made famous in journalism history for the work of investigative reporter Don Hale, whose work overturned a murder conviction.
It says: “Both are well-established newspapers serving the towns and communities where they are based.
“The Matlock Mercury used to have a sister title, the Matlock edition of the Derbyshire Times. I am sure that you are aware of the paper achieving considerable fame and glory during the time of former editor Don Hale for its work involving the Wendy Sewell murder case and the conviction and subsequent release after years in gaol of Stephen Downing which made national headlines.
“I quote from your own website under the heading Serving Our Communities: ‘Our journalists are part of their communities and have wide-ranging networks of contacts, helping to ensure they hear what is happening when it is happening.’
“This cannot be done in the same way if the journalists’ bases are miles away and in separate local government areas.
“We would ask you to reconsider this ill-thought-out plan which may save money in the short-term but lose the newspapers readers, income and prestige in the long-term. We would also hope that no journalists would lose their jobs as a result of these proposals.”
The work of Don Hale OBE is recognised as an example of local investigative journalism at its best as he was responsible for the overturning of the conviction of Stephen Dowling, who had been jailed in 1973, for the murder of local woman Wendy Sewell.
Mr Dowling served more than 27 years in prison before Mr Hale’s intervention and following a six-year campaign his conviction was eventually quashed and declared unsafe by the Court of Appeal in 2001, with him being released.
Announcing the move, John Bills, managing director of JP’s North Midlands and South Yorkshire business unit, said the titles would be produced by the same teams who would continue to work locally, with contact points and regular reporter surgeries.
Johnston Press has declined to comment further.