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Publisher offers lifeline to axed Johnston Press journalists

The publisher of a Yorkshire newspaper has offered to help journalists who have lost their jobs as a result of Johnston Press cutbacks to launch new titles in their areas.

Danny Lockwood, publisher of The Press, an independent newspaper based in Dewsbury, wants to help journalists who are interested in setting up their own newspapers in towns such as Brighouse, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge.

The move follows the decision by Johnston Press to close the offices of the Brighouse Echo, Todmorden News and Hebden Bridge Times and run all three titles from Halifax, as well as making Echo editor Stephen Firth redundant.

Danny said he already has a working business model that just needs the right people to make it work, adding that it was about having journalists who are a real part of the community.

Said Danny: “If any sacked JP staff want to collaborate on launching a low-cost, locally-driven product into Brighouse, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield or wherever, they can contact me and I will be more than willing to help.”

He told HTFP that there is room in his Dewsbury offices for sub editors and people to sell adverts, adding that journalists could ‘put feet their on the ground from here.’

He said: “I can provide production, back office, print and distribution if they can provide a bit of local passion, pride and someone on the ground to write stories and flog local ads – at properly affordable prices.

“I’ve wanted to do this in Huddersfield for a while; it’s just a question of getting the right people. There are revenue opportunities for new businesses, we are giving something back to local newspapers and community journalism – it would be short-sighted not to take it up.”

Danny added that daily newspapers such as the Scarborough Evening News which is going weekly had left an opportunity for other titles to start up.

He said: “If you don’t have all the start-up costs and get someone like me who can take care of everything except writing the stories and selling the ads, then we can look at the marketplace and say whether it’s viable.”

Johnston Press has declined to comment either on the Yorkshire office closures or on the decision to make Stephen Firth redundant.

Danny can be contacted on 01924 439498.

18 comments

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  • April 19, 2012 at 9:30 am
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    I’m a bit confused by this story.

    Where’s the lifeline? Mr Lockwood appears to be offering a business opportunity (presumably involving some cash changing hands?) rather than a lifeline.

    You can also site your subs and advertising teams out of the area – surely something that many on this site have decried previously.

    Plus he wants to do it in Huddersfield – which still has a daily newspaper and which is unaffected by these changes?

    I’m confused about why HTFP have even published this thinly-veiled press release for him asking for someone to take up office space at his HQ and to help him start a weekly newspaper in a town with a daily newspaper.

    Fair play to Mr Lockwood for getting it published though.

    My commiserations to all at Halifax & associated centres who face the prospect of losing their jobs.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 10:21 am
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    If a few more journalists had the gumption to do what Danny did Johnston Press would collapse in a heap.

    With modern technology you can achieve anything. The critical thing is good sales staff!

    The journalism is the easy bit

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  • April 19, 2012 at 10:24 am
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    Not so ‘Confused’. Here’s how it would work. I have freelance subs/ designers who could always use more hours. I can get papers printed and have a distribution team, thus we can publish far more cost effectively than JP, Trinity etc. There are no real start-up costs.
    So if someone like Stephen Firth could get a little office or a couple of desks in Brighouse (or anyone, anywhere) and someone to sell advertising alongside him, we could do the rest. That could be a separate joint venture between us, or if the entrepreneur was really bullish and wanted control they could ‘buy’ our services. There are lots of ways to make it work.
    From my point of view it’s giving people more work, spreading my business base – because it is tough out there – and it’s investing in community journalism which I still happen to think has a future even if Johnston Press don’t. That’s all.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 10:30 am
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    How laudible and unselfish of Mr Danny.
    “Speculate your redundo money with me on your own hyperlocal papers!”

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  • April 19, 2012 at 10:55 am
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    I don’t want/need anyone’s redundo. If they want to do it just for a wage and I think there’s a business there, I’ll take the risk. They can buy in later if they want and it works (kinda knocked the stuffing out of that bit of cynicism, eh?)

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  • April 19, 2012 at 11:37 am
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    Good on you Danny.
    There’ll always be cynics.
    Seems to me you’ve got a model and are genuinely trying to find a way to make local journalism work.
    At least you’re trying to do something positive rather than whinging.
    I’ve often thought of setting up on my own but haven’t had the courage to do it – yet.
    If the big boys keep cutting back, it’ll be the entrepreneurial journalists who keep proper journalism alive.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm
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    To be fair to Danny, he has actually built a newspaper business in the face of JP competition so he does know what he’s talking about. Sounds like a good offer to me for anybody with the cojones to take it on.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm
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    This is what is wrong with so many journalists .. they sniff someone being successful and they are immediately sceptical. This sounds like an opportunity and he’s hardly holding a gun to anyone’s head.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm
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    I don’t know Danny from Adam but it must be worth looking into his ideas instead of sitting at home slating them. Some of you lot need to get out and about more.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm
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    Johnston Press are teetering on the brink and many of the larger publishing businesses have a totally unsustainable model!

    Today’s world suits independent publishers who can work smart and basically set themselves up how they want

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  • April 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm
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    Ah – capitalism and journalism – never the twain shall meet

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  • April 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm
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    I’m with Dan on this. Anyone with experience and knowledge of proper journalism and proper papers (though they might have to be of a certain age to remember what proper papers look and feel like) can do it.
    Producing a good newspaper that people want to read (especially if it’s free) isn’t hard.
    Paying the bills (production, distribution, power, premises, wages, etc) and earning a living wage for yourself is the tricky bit.
    Finding good, reliable ad staff to persuade businesses/readers to part with their cash on a regular basis is the key.
    Investment in the product also works – ask yourself why it is that the most successful papers out there (sales and revenue) are those that have managements that believes in staff and resource.
    And I’d forget websites – good print still sells.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm
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    Any option is better than no option at all. It seems like a fair opportunity to me as a fairly recent ‘Jobseeker’… Any chance of you spreading west Danny?

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  • April 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm
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    @Dying breed hits the nail on the head. There’s a huge market place out there, but without the right sales reps who can help local businesses design dynamic and exciting campaigns that will interest readers, there’s no hope.

    Good luck to Danny as he seeks to expand. He knows what JP, Trinity and Tindle don’t – local news still matters to local people.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm
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    Dear Curious … geography isn’t as important as commitment to hard work and local knowledge for the Champion/Editor and his sales sidekick (already had inquiries from as far afield as Scotland). My ‘model’ for this is pretty simple. Anywhere that ticks the boxes has a good chance. email me on lockwood@newspost.co.uk if you have an idea. I’ll treat everything in strictest confidence.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm
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    Fair do’s Danny if you are prepared to pay staff, not get them to invest in the business. I know from experience how hard it is out there to make a profit locally with dwindling numbers of advertisers. Good luck to you all (but bank the redundo!)

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  • April 20, 2012 at 10:52 am
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    An interesting article for so many reasons and incredible plug for Danny and his services. Well done to him. To me it tests the mettle of journalists who argue that JP should make it work with all the costs and shouldn’t be making the redundancies (not saying the journalists haven’t been treated badly BTW – there is a way of doing these things) Basically Danny is saying use your quality writing skills and get out there and test them in the local community. If you did, you would be surprised to find that Danny isn’t the only one who can offer backroom services.
    The way the industry is going reminds me of the days when free papers were first launched when they first challenged the regional monopolies. This is already happening with hundreds of small, quality, free publications with very targeted print runs to specific communities. The perception of quality constantly by the public is constantly increasing in print yet being watered down in editorial quality terms which leaves me wondering actually what the public want? Do they want a high quality editorial high content paid for local or are they happy with free to pick up small publications that people living and working in those communities have (often poorly) put together themselves yet talk passionately and directly about the issues immediately affecting that specific community. The opportunity for the qulaity journalist is surely a cross between the two and this will then give a decent sales person something to sell to advertisers.
    Also to ignore a joint strategy between web and printed publication is foolish, the two work in tandem.
    Be brave, be lucky.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm
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    Getting advertisers to part with their hard earned money isn’t a problem when they have direct contact with the person who will be taking their advert, dealing with amendments, listening to their rants, collecting their money (from the little guys) and offering an excellent customer service, just the one person, not a call centre where they couldn’t give a stuff who they’re dealing with and don’t know the areas. Even during the credit crunch they are willing to spend. If you’re looking for loyal sales people for “In Paper Advertising” in the North East (where we’ve already heard our jobs are going to Sheffied) leave a message on here Mr Lockwood and I’m sure you will receive plenty of responses from dedicated sales people and plenty of their loyal business who would follow. Web is OK if it is run properly and managed properly but everyone has access to a paper, not everyone can afford the internet up here.
    Thank you for still believing in local newspapers

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