A former union rep at the regional daily has given a frank appraisal of the state of the industry, claiming it is “gutting itself.”
Peter, who led several strikes at the paper, said that when he began working at the YEP in 1972, there were more than 200 journalists working across the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post.
When he left in August 2012 to join the socialist daily the Morning Star, there were just 60.
Said Peter: “The industry has been under sustained pressure for several decades, and it’s no exaggeration to say that regional journalism is now a profession completely in crisis.
“Some of the best stories I ever got, started out life scribbled on the back of a beer mat in the pub talking to some local character or other.
“I interviewed the last professional mole catcher in Yorkshire in a pub in the market town of Otley,’ he says.
“We used to dispatch a reporter and photographer on spec for three days to the Yorkshire Dales, or over to the east coast to talk to fisher folk and people working on the docks, just seeing what we could pick up – and as a direct result of that the most wonderful stories used to occur.”
By the time Peter left, however, the job had changed almost beyond all recognition.
He said: “Due to the proliferation of television channels and the dramatic growth in new media due to the rise of the internet, both advertising money and sales revenues have decreased substantially. And this has only been exacerbated by the financial crisis.
Peter said that local papers were still profitable, with UK residents spendinf £690 million a year on regional and local papers.
But he added: “Over the past two decades newspaper proprietors’ strategy has been to wring as much profit out of papers as possible before eventually closing or selling them on. It amounts to an industry gutting itself.”