A former Johnston Press news editor has launched a petition in a bid to prevent the regional publisher from closing a weekly newspaper office and moving its journalists out of town.
Dan Howard, who worked for the Reporter Series in West Yorkshire from 1994-2002, has started the online petition calling for the Batley News office to be kept in the town.
The newspaper’s Commercial Street office will go to auction on 11 April and five journalists working for the News and sister title the Spenborough Guardian, which is also based there, are set to be relocated to the Reporter Series head office in Dewsbury.
The move is the latest in a string of office closures as part of the Johnston Press’ aims to move staff to “more suitable” accommodation, with the Sleaford Standard and four titles in Scotland among the latest to be hit.
Dan started out as a reporter for the Spenborough Guardian in 1994, which became part of the newspaper series a year later, and he was later promoted to news editor at sister titles the Morley Observer and Dewsbury Reporter.
He said: “Local newspapers are an integral part of their community and as such should be based within their community. The more distance you put between the newspaper and its readership the more trust and faith will be shaken.
“Sales will be affected and when readers abandon the paper, advertisers will follow.
“This is particularly true where you’re dealing with proud, independent towns such as Batley. Such distance will do nothing to sustain or enhance the relationship between newspapers and the communities they serve.
“Short term savings are guaranteed but in the long term this strategy of centralisation could prove costly for Johnston.”
His petition calls on JP’s Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group to reconsider the closure of its Batley office and to maintain a permanent presence in the town.
Dan, who is now a researcher and a caseworker for Batley MP Mike Wood, said those signing the petition included Victoria Salmon, the widow of Barry Salmon who was the last dedicated editor of the Batley News.
The newspaper has announced the closure of its Batley office to readers in a short article, which said its editorial staff will move to the home of the Dewsbury Reporter on Wellington Road, Dewsbury.
The town centre office been put up for auction on 11 April by Eddisons with a guide price of over £65,000.
Johnston Press had not responded to requests for a comment at the time of publication.