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Long-serving editors depart in fresh Newsquest shake-up

suesmithTwo weekly editors whose combined service totals more than 60 years have been axed by regional publisher Newsquest.

Sue Smith, editor of the Stroud News and Journal and Gloucestershire Independent, and Skip Walker, who edits the Wilts and Glos Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette, were both made redundant last week.

Both women have worked in local newspapers for more than 30 years and have long experience with their respective titles.

It is understood that the four titles alongside quarterly magazine Cotswood Essence are to be placed under a single group editor.

Sue, pictured above left, started out on the Bury Free Press in 1976 and pursued a career on national newspapers before joining the News and Journal in 2000, at which time Skip was the paper’s editor.

She was news editor for four years before succeeeding Skip in the editor’s chair.

Skip, below right, then returned to the Cirencester-based Wilts & Glos Standard as editor, ten years after having left the paper to take over in Stroud.

skipwalkerShe had been due to retire at the end of 2015 but it is understood that both she and Sue will now leave their roles by Christmas.

In addition to the editor roles, a staff photographer role has also been axed at the Gloucestershire titles.

There is now one photographer covering all three paid-for papers.

No one from Newsquest has so far responded to requests for a comment.

The Gloucestershire departures follow that of another long-serving Newsquest editor, Paul Walker, whose role disappeared in a restructure earlier this month.

Paul had been editor of seven weekly titles including the Stourbridge News, Halesowen News, Dudley News, Kidderminster Shuttle, Bromsgrove Advertiser, Droitwich Advertiser and Redditch and Alcester Advertiser, which he had edited since January 1999.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 7:46 am
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    “Depart” in the headline, “axed” in the copy. Whatever, two more experienced hands depart the fold early. How old is the replacement? 18? On £9.5k pa? With a “journalism” GCSE? Probably.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 8:31 am
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    This secret warehouse full of editors will need an extension soon.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 9:57 am
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    You do wonder if there will ever be a headline saying that Newsquest, Trinity Mirror or any publisher plan to recruit experienced senior staff. It’s desperately sad that ‘digital journalism’ has become shorthand for labour which is young, inexperienced and cheap.
    Unless, of course, the publisher is creating a new tier of regional management, in which case the money is always there.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 9:57 am
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    It looks like the cull has moved on from the lower scale jobs to the mighty editors… Just maybe a top-level change was needed for a long time and bringing in some somebody new with fresh ideas is the right thing to do?

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  • December 15, 2014 at 10:53 am
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    group editor? not much editing will be done then from my experience. smoozing with local biz bores and loads of boring meetings but not a lot of hands-on work.
    They and other companies are fast running out of people to sack.
    Newspaper closures , sadly, are their next choice.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 11:51 am
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    Err… Someone new with fresh ideas is needed right at the top of Newsquest. Editors are not top level, they are merely lower middle management.
    I worked with Skip for several years and know the long hours she put in to get her papers out every week, especially when Knowledge came in. A 1am finish was not unusual.
    While I have little doubt she is relieved to be going, the Standard is losing someone with a deep local knowledge, a genuine interest in the area and an excellent reporter training record.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm
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    Experience does count.

    The howlers are spreading from the wet-behind-the-ears youngsters in the regions to usually respected national paper political columnists.

    One such person wrote over the weekend of being in a ‘drafty’ room.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm
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    Yeah thanks “Err..”

    Your concern is heart-warming.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 1:32 pm
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    Worked with both ladies a while back. Great editors, with local knowledge who could spot a decent story and produce great newspapers.

    Good luck both.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm
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    It’s the loss of local knowledge that is so sad. Our communities and their papers deserve better.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 3:10 pm
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    Please note that Observer who commented at 1.32pm is not me. I’ll now change my handle to JethroTull57 to avoid confusion.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm
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    Across the country, faceless (and in many cases witless) management types make these decisions with a) little or no regard for what this will mean to the quality and status of the papers in their communities and b) zero respect for journalism.
    It’s easy to sound precious when you try and defend journalism as a concept, but what these dunderheads don’t realise is that their extreme short termism is eating away at the very thing which gives their ‘product’ (as they are wont to call it) its USP – compelling, well presented, curated content, delivered with authority and adherence to standards.
    If, for example, these dolts got their hands on the pharmaceutical R&D industry and started chopping out experienced people simply on a cost basis then there would be an outcry from here to Westminster. As it is, because its ‘only’ regional journalism which is suffering death by a thousand cuts, those of us who realise its true long term value have to witness some very good papers being dragged down the plughole by people locally who will likely be managing call centres (or car dealerships in some cases) in ten years time, smug and satisifed that they ‘managed’ change in local media while trousering hefty bonuses themselves in return for their cultural and intellectual vandalism.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm
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    Juan Direction – beautifully put. Sums up my feelings exactly.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 7:04 pm
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    God, how sad. . . Jaun Direction has hit the nail on the head. Saved me having to write all that. Having been a journalist for 36 years (before taking `voluntary redundancy’ after 21 years as an Editor), I felt exactly the same. Compared to how much fun and exciting the industry was when I started, how could I possibly tell trainees for the company: this a bright, exciting, every-day-is-different career and you get out to meet people and help them . . . ? If only I could turn back time tor them to 1972 when I set out on the great adventure – and loved every minute.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm
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    The whole thing’s a mess. We have been giving away free content on the internet and with little, if any, variation to what you see in the print edition (due to lack of staff). So is it any surprise that the bean counters have been looking to produce that content for very little by releasing better-paid editorial employees and anyone else they possibly can, leaving a skeleton staff in the newsroom. Taking on cheaper and sometimes free alternatives, getting the reader to do more and more from writing stories to taking pics themselves for nowt. With the lack of quality that goes with it. When you give content away for free on the internet, then the going price for journalism is, well, nothing. Yet some of those who read it for free are then surprised when the quality naturally dips as a result, read comments on any newspaper website. Good journalism needs to be paid for. The over-paid big wigs need to make the internet pay and it is they who should be looking for new jobs if they can’t.

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  • December 15, 2014 at 9:28 pm
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    Well said Juan Direction. Here’a the problem – the people making these decisions spout a lot about “products” and “brands” but they don’t actually know what their product is. The numbers boys and girls wrongly think its a Profit and Loss excel chart, whipped along by those above them.
    It’s actually not even the newspaper or website – these are just methods of delivery for the product – which is NEWS. Such a good, bespoke product that you can piggyback advertising on it to make money.
    And that’s what they are destroying. No other commercial sector would risk taking a hammer to its product, but these idiots do.
    But you are right, they will all be off to other shiny suit retail boss jobs eventually when their bonus schemes dry up. The feeble products they are creating in print and online have no chance of supporting tiers of management in big groups. In the meantime the task is to get rid of anyone who says “What about the News?” It’s Emperor’s New Clothes… and some.

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  • December 16, 2014 at 10:42 am
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    Of course it is hard to disagree with Juan Direction.

    There is however one inescapable fact; less and less people want to buy our printed newspapers. Our products don’t figure in people’s day to day lives any more.

    It’s easy to blame Digital and no doubt it accelerated the decline but the decline was there in the late 80’s and 90’s, long before mass adoption of the World Wide Web, Tablets and Mobiles.

    The lack of management vision isn’t a new phenomenon. The real ‘own goal’ happened in the late 80’s early 90’s where our newspapers stopped being an essential part of family life. Thus people in their mid 40’s and 50’s with grown up children never got in to the habit of taking a regional/local paper each day – how can we expect their offspring to? Looking back, the death knell was caused by a lack of understanding of not being an essential part of family life by long gone management. Digital and the recession wouldn’t have helped and maybe worsened the situation, training readers to expect quality journalism for free was the mistake made at the turn of the century

    What are current management to do? Falling circulations, advertising spend going elsewhere thus reducing; yet huge overheads to deal with. They’ve taken out many non-journalism costs – probably as much as they can. I guess their strategy is to keep printed newspaper’s going for as long as possible to hope that digital can take over. Time will tell.

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  • December 16, 2014 at 11:27 am
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    Deeply depressing read, but Juan Direction (love the name) and Runaway Ed are both spot on. However, there are some newspaper groups which seem to have it right.
    The Kent Messenger is still recruiting senior reporters and its editors remain hands-on. The website is used for breaking stories and is backed by advertising without the use of those frustrating pop-ups which only serve to send readers away.
    Meanwhile, I have found a corner of the warehouse for ex-editors which is quite comfortable. I can moan here freely about the “falling standards” while enjoying the strange delights of not having to work until silly o’clock to meet deadlines.
    As an unexpected bonus, I have discovered that other people have something called bank holidays which they actually take off.
    But yes, I do miss the newspaper “buzz”.

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  • December 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm
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    We’re all doomed – doomed, I tell you. I’m just glad I worked in the trade in happier, better staffed times for over 30 years even though pay was poor and hours were long.
    Also, think of the good tales that are now going undetected in all districts and the thousands of defendants in awful court cases who do a jig of sheer joy when they realise their case isn’t going to be in the paper after all.
    For years the publicity was about 90 per cent of the punishment for countless generally good citizens who had erred in stealing a packet of ham from a store, for example. I used to often feel sorry for them as I tapped out their cases knowing the shame they would face on Friday morn as the paper was published. One paper I worked for in the 70s published EVERY case on usually two pages. Almost every cough and spit.
    I remember JPs on drink-drive charges, a mags. clerk done for importuning, and the respectable chairman of a Conservative association, deputy lord lieutenant and CAB branch official who handsomely paid a couple of bruisers to seek out and duff up a former man friend when he jilted her and conned her out of a few thousand. (Conspiracy to cause GBH, I think it was). Oh those were the days…

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  • December 17, 2014 at 6:21 pm
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    Having spent just shy of 48 years in journalism, I believe I am qualified to insist that the current standard of writing in local newspapers is abysmal – and it’s all the fault of block-headed management who care nothing for the quality of their product, getting rid of experienced hacks who know their local patch intimately and replacing them with bussed-in, wet-behind-the-ears dolts with sociology degrees. My local paid-for, once a respected 28,000 copies a week must-buy, is now a pathetic imitation, riddled with literals – you should see the letters page! – and struggling to sell 9,500 a week.

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  • December 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm
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    Juan Direction’s description of the people running regional media could not be more spot on – and I have experience of it. As I write I am staring at a box of cheap mince pies presented to me by my “grateful” MD at the exact same time as he and his faithful management team trough themselves silly at a Michelin-starred restaurant up the road which they were transported to in a private hire minibus. We are not expecting them back to see the paper off this afternoon…

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  • December 18, 2014 at 7:07 pm
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    Doug Grave – Count yourself lucky with those mince pies, sir. If I was your boss it’d be a Jaffa Cake from a multi-pack at best. Munch on, Doug, and keep up the good work.

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  • December 19, 2014 at 2:34 pm
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    Lucky to get mince pie or other small treat. In the 1960s the owner of my former local paper in Bucks used to sweep into the newsroom and toss large bunches of holly and /or mistletoe onto the floor and shout: “There you are everybody. Have a good Christmas..! ” and then leave. The greenery was from his small stately home. We always shouted: “Thank you very much” and got back to our typewriters and ledgers. Sometimes we worked six days or perhaps half a day less and were promised time off in lieu but were usually too busy to take it.
    In later years there was a bottle of wine each at Xmas..

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  • December 20, 2014 at 10:43 am
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    Swansea must be the city supplier of choice for Local World SW. Not only do our office painter and decorators and the providers of assorted materials for our myriad awards ceremonies come from there, so do our mince pies. Fancy that!

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  • December 20, 2014 at 5:40 pm
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    If anyone doesn’t want their mince pies then GIVE THEM BACK – we could sell those on eBay to boost week 52 revenues….

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  • December 22, 2014 at 12:21 pm
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    Quite a few comments on here this week are of the ‘Shut up and stop moaning’ variety, unusually. I smell a management nark attempting to spin what is, on any reading, a woeful crop of Christmas bad news stories.
    Juan Direction hints at the inescapable truth in all this; yes, people might not be reading newspapers as much any more, but when you get down to brass tacks what we sell is not newspapers but information, wherever and in whatever form that appears – print, online or painted on a banner trailed behind a Cessna 152 – and the 24/7 digital model which emphasises speed over content has only served to make it acutely apparent that what we’re offering all too often just isn’t any good. Some of the best-written stuff is produced by PR officers with their own axe to grind and many reporters are too inexperienced, ignorant, rushed or poorly trained to write stories as they deserve to be written. Our lords and masters haven’t embraced digital because it’s the future; that, after all, would imply having some sort of vision. They’ve done it because it’s cheap, and the slipshod churnalism their management style has produced (deliberately) fits perfectly into a world of cat videos and 23 Things You Need To Know About Taylor Swift’s Armpits. We’ve become content providers, but no one says the content we provide has to be news; it just has to generate clicks.

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  • December 22, 2014 at 4:08 pm
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    Ed J Smith is right. Quality dive is not a recent thing.
    There were some mediocre editors around ten or so years ago who were complacent when selling much bigger numbers of papers than their “talent” justified.
    Instead of reacting to changing times they sat on their hands. I could name one mediocrity who took a so-called flagship paper from nearly 30,000 sales a week to about 14,000 and now to about 10,000. Reward?
    Promotion.
    Add in staff cuts and the “digital first” mantra, plus expensive and not needed re-designs on some outstanding papers that ruined their local character and you have the current situation.
    I congratulate all the remaining journos who manage to keep getting papers out, whether their “products” are good or bad. I am sure any comments on HTFP about quality are not directed at them, but the fools in charge.

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  • January 9, 2015 at 8:25 am
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    When you sack experienced editors, here is the result…

    http://bit.ly/1DpcG8M

    An intemperate, feeble-minded editorial playing to the “hang ’em and flog-em” gallery. Disgraceful.

    Outrage masquerading as opinion is just puerile.

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